The Ben, Will & JD Hayes-trained Cox...
The 2023 Ladbrokes Cox Plate is Hong Kong-bound after the Danny Shum-trained Sha Tin superstar, Romantic Warrior, got up for the punters to nail Mr Brightside right on the line in an epic finish to the 103rd edition of Australia’s greatest race.
To the naked eye it looked as though it would be a Team Hayes‘ fairy-tale with their super miler, Mr Brightside, flashing up the inside late to force a photo-finish in the Group 1 $5 million Ladbrokes Cox Plate (2040m) at The Valley.
Jockey Craig Williams gave Mr Brightside an absolute peach of a ride saving ground the fence throughout, but despite the huge performance by both horse and hoop, they weren’t able to defeat the favourite Romantic Warrior who got the bikkies by a nose.
The Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott-trained cult horse Alligator Blood, who came into the weight-for-age championship in hot form off two lead-up Group 1 victories, was also in the finish running out of his skin for third only a short neck beaten off an on-speed run throughout.
Winning hoop James McDonald was full of post-race emotion after becoming the first rider in 33 years to win the Cox Plate on back-to-back years aboard different horses.
Michael Clarke on Almaarad (1989) and Better Loosen Up (1990) was the last jockey to achieve the feat McDonald emulated with his narrow Cox Plate triumph this season.
“Oh my god, I thought I got beaten when the camera didn’t follow me,” McDonald told Racing.com.
“I can’t believe we’ve won the Cox Plate!
“I’ve had so much faith in this horse.
“It means so much. I’ve been singing his praises about just how much he’s improved.
“I needed to get a good run, I felt I gave it the best possible run I could.
“I can’t believe I won!”
McDonald won last spring aboard the Godolphin-raced Anamoe and the pressure was on him again in 2023 riding the dual Queen Elizabeth II Cup winner Romantic Warrior.
J Mac soaked up the pressure, got the favourite settled into the ideal position fourth as the three-year-old King Colorado led them around at only a moderate pace.
The front-runner was quickly claimed around the turn home by Zaaki before Alligator Blood, ridden so well by Tim Clark, had the lead with 200m to go looking to be crowned this year’s Cox Plate winner.
It was a Cox Plate for the ages with eyes everywhere inside the final 50m as Romantic Warrior got up on the outside just when it seemed Mr Brightside had pinched it on the rails.
Romantic Warrior showed all his championship qualities to flex late and win much to the joy of Shum.
“Thank you boss!” he said.
“Big meaning for me as a trainer.
“I’m really happy. I don’t know how to tell you I’m just so happy!”
Less pleased was co-trainer Ben Hayes who said the team had initially thought Mr Brightside had won.
“Craig gave a 10/10 ride,” he said.
“We actually thought he won when he crossed the line so that makes it even worse in a way!
“(Mr Brightside is) just an absolute superstar. He’s ticked off that 2000 (metres) now and we couldn’t be prouder of the horse..
“We’re pretty shattered
“He had very chance. Just frustrating.”
Hayes said there was the potential for a Cox Plate rematch should Mr Brightside head to Hong Kong in December for the Group 1 majors at Sha Tin.
“I’d love a rematch!” he said.
“We’ll see how the horse is first, if he pulls up well we could head there.”
Another runner that put in an enormous run to complete the Cox Plate First Four was Edward Cummings‘ multiple Group 1 winning mare Duais at 30/1 who just ran out of room in the concluding stages.
Gold Trip meanwhile ran a lovely lead-up into his Melbourne Cup title defence on November 7 with a slashing fifth only 1.4 lengths beaten.
2023 Cox Plate Results & Finishing Order
|1||1||ROMANTIC WARRIOR (IRE)||Danny Shum||James McDonald||7||59kg||$3.60F|
|2||3||MR BRIGHTSIDE (NZ)||Ben, Will & JD Hayes||Craig Williams||0.1L||2||59kg||$9|
|3||4||ALLIGATOR BLOOD||Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott||Tim Clark||0.3L||5||59kg||$6|
|4||9||DUAIS||Edward Cummings||Damien Oliver||1.3L||1||57kg||$31|
|5||5||GOLD TRIP (FR)||Ciaron Maher & David Eustace||Mark Zahra||1.4L||8||59kg||$7.50|
|6||2||ZAAKI (GB)||Annabel Neasham||Damian Lane||1.5L||12||59kg||$21|
|7||8||FANGIRL||Chris Waller||Zac Purton||1.6L||9||57kg||$6.50|
|8||11||MILITARIZE (NZ)||Chris Waller||Zac Lloyd (a)||2.35L||3||49.5kg||$8.50|
|9||10||VICTORIA ROAD (IRE)||Aidan O’Brien||Blake Shinn||5.35L||6||56.5kg||$17|
|10||6||MY OBERON (IRE)||Annabel Neasham||Jamie Mott||7.1L||4||59kg||$61|
|11||7||PINSTRIPED||Enver Jusufovic||Ben Allen||7.4L||11||59kg||$101|
|12||12||KING COLORADO||Ciaron Maher & David Eustace||Michael Dee||10.15L||10||49.5kg (cd 50kg)||$26|
Table Credit: Racing Australia.
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