For only the second time since the Cox Plate was first run almost 100 years ago, a northern hemisphere trained runner has won the race, with Japanese mare Lys Gracieux claiming a breathtaking victory at Moonee Valley on Saturday.
Lys Gracieux, translated to “Graceful Lily” from French, is trained in Japan by Mr Yoshito Yahagi. Only lightly raced, the six-year old mare’s form was super leading into the race. She had three starts this calendar year including a placing in Japan over 2000m, a placing in the Group 1 QE2 Cup over a mile and a quarter in Hong Kong, and her last run before heading to our shores was a Group One win at home over 2200m.
As always with the internationals through the major Spring Carnival races, it’s a gamble as to whether they actually come or not, but once this mare was confirmed as making the journey, she was very heavily backed in the betting markets. The amount of money for her late on the betting exchange in particular was astonishing – she firmed a good 5 or 6 rolls of the board in the last minutes of betting.
The race was run at a hot tempo and the win was very soft. She circled them and ran down the three-year old Castelvecchio with ease, with the margin officially a length and a half, with another two back to third. Both place getters were the last two horses to be included in the field, and it must be said, there didn’t look a lot of excuses from those that were beaten.
The win gave Damian Lane his second major in the space of seven days after he piloted another Japanese raider, Mere De Glace, to win the Caulfield Cup a week earlier. Incredibly, he has now won the Golden Slipper, Caulfield Cup and Cox Plate this calendar year. That follows a stint in Japan earlier in the year where he was a multiple Group One winner, including one on Les Gracieux. He will pilot Mere De Glace in the Melbourne Cup on the first Tuesday in November and try to complete the big four.
Magic Wand and Kluger were the other two northern hemisphere trained horses to contest the race. Magic Wand is trained by Aidan O’brien and was huge in defeat after doing a stack of work on the speed. She will be aimed at the Melbourne Cup in ten days’ time. Kluger is a Japanese horse that we have seen here before when he ran second to Winx at huge odds in Sydney in the Autumn. He played up a little at the barrier and was beaten a long way, well below his best.
Lys Gracieux was rated the second-best mare in Japan. It leaves the question as to how many and what quality of international raiders we will see in the future here for the race. More importantly, will we see weight-for age-specialists like her come and target the race, or just the ones that have the Cup in mind and use it as a lead-up? After four straight years of seeing Winx beat up on the best we had to offer, it will be great if this race, in the future, can target the stars from around the world.
2019 Cox Plate Finishing Order
1st Lys Gracieux
3rd Te Akau Shark
4th Magic Wand
5th Mystic Journey
6th Kings Will Dream
9th Black Heart Bart
10th Cape Of Good Hope
12th Verry Elleegant