Two-time Cox Plate winning jockey Craig Williams is confident heading into this year’s edition of Australasia’s weight-for-age championship after putting his mount, English visitor Arod, through his paces in a strong piece of work on Wednesday morning.
This Saturday sees the latest edition of the $3 million Group 1 W.S. Cox Plate (2040m) light up Moonee Valley Racecourse as Race 9 at 5:40pm (AEST) with a capacity 14-starter line-up.
Three of those in the mix are international raiders invited by the Moonee Valley Racing Club (MVRC), including the Peter Chapple-Hyam-trained Teofilo stallion Arod.
The five-year-old is a winner of four of his 11 starts to date including both of his previous 2000m runs heading into his Australian race debut in the Cox Plate where Williams will shoot for a third win in the classic.
Williams’s previous winning Cox Plate rides were aboard Fields Of Omagh (2006) and more recently Pinker Pinker (2011) who was the last mare to beat home the boys in the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival feature.
Based at Marlborough in Great Britain, Arod won the Group 2 Summer Mile (1609m) at Ascot on July 11 before his brave last start when beaten half a length by Solow in the Group 1 Sussex Stakes (1609m) a fortnight later at Goodwood carrying 61kg.
Under the conditions of the Cox Plate he gets in on 59kg and is drawn nicely in barrier five, which last produced a Cox Plate winner in 2010 when So You Think successfully defended his title.
In the current Cox Plate odds at Ladbrokes.com.au, who have Best Tote or SP + 20% markets open on all 10 Moonee Valley races this Saturday, Arod pays $8.50 as one of five single figure fancies in the markets.
Williams is confident that’s a nice price for his horse after Arod had his last serious track gallop at the synthetic Werribee track on Wednesday ahead of the Cox Plate, running solo over 1400m to clock a final 600m sectional of 36 seconds.
“I was able to ride him last week and get a comparison with him this week,” Williams, who also rode Arod on Saturday morning for the first time, told Racing Victoria.
“The horse is healthy and he’s very well, but he’s not going to break clocks.
“He’s quite lazy in his work and by himself but I’m really looking forward to the race with him on Saturday.
“Having the first sit on him is very important, just to get the base with him, but then to get a comparison from where he’s at and he’s really come alive now.
“Last week he was a sleeping dragon, now he’s really come alive and come race day, and to have horses around him and with him.”
Leading Cox Plate betting at $5 is fellow international Highland Reel, the Irish galloper prepared by last year’s winning trainer Aidan O’Brien and coming off similar lead-up for including the Secretariat Stakes win in the USA as 2014 champion Adelaide.
The other raider in the mix is the French-trained last start winner Gailo Chop ($19) jumping from barrier eight with Brad Rawiller in the saddle.
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