The Moonee Valley Racing Club (MVRC) announced on Thursday that world class Japanese gallopers Maurice and A Shin Hikari are the headliners of an international guest list to this year’s $3m, Group 1 William Hill Cox Plate.
Both Maurice and A Shin Hikari have stamped themselves as two of the most elite horses in the world and form part of four Japanese invitees in Australia’s weight-for-age championship at The Valley to be run on Saturday, October 22.
The MVRC has issued invitations to horses from the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Japan, Ireland and France in a bid to attract a world-class field to what is shaping as a vintage 96th William Hill Cox Plate.
Chris Waller has confirmed 2015 winner and current Longines World’s Best Racehorse Winx will be back to defend her crown while Australian Cup winner Preferment and Tavago, who was victorious in the AJC Derby, are both ballot exempt for the 2040 metre feature race.
In the MVRC’s first round of invitations, the club has remained committed to its international strategy, which covers all costs associated with transporting horses to Melbourne for the William Hill Cox Plate. The success of this strategy was on show in 2014 when the Aidan O’Brien trained Adelaide was the first internationally trained horse to triumph in the race’s 96 year history.
“The club is delighted to once again issue invitations to the best middle distance horses from around the world to compete in ‘The Race Where Legends Are Made’,” said Michael Browell, Moonee Valley Racing Club CEO.
“Combined with the success of Adelaide in 2014 and last year’s placegetter Highland Reel, the club feels the changes to the VRC’s Melbourne Cup Carnival program will further help attract international contenders with the extra lure of the $2M Emirates Stakes (2000m) a fortnight later,” says Browell.
Maurice, a four time Group 1 winner and Japanese Horse of the Year recipient, burst onto the scene in 2015 when he was unbeaten from six starts in the calendar year, returning with a dominant victory in May 2016 to take out the Group 1 Champions Mile in Hong Kong.
Masanori Sakaguchi trained five-year-old A Shin Hikari continues to impress with a record boasting 10 wins from his 12 career starts. Having proved himself at Sha Tin’s international meeting on December 13 in the Group 1 Longines Cup Hong Kong over 2000m he returned in 2016 with a devastating 10 length victory in the Group 1 Prix D’Ispahan.
Dual Group 1 winner Kitasan Black who has won or placed in 9 of his 10 starts, ranging from 1800 metres to 3200 metres, and seven-time winner and Japan Cup runner-up Last Impact make up the Japanese contingent.
“The club is committed to developing stronger ties with Japan, as they are proving to be a powerhouse on the world stage. Their focus on breeding world-class middle distance horses will see them being very competitive in the W.S. Cox Plate in the future.” said Browell.
As the sole Irish invitee, 2015 placegetter Highland Reel returns in 2016 having subsequently won the Group 1 Hong Kong Vase for William Hill Cox Plate winning trainer Aidan O’Brien.
Former Kiwi star Werther has also been issued an invitation as the only Hong Kong representative. The John Moore trained four-year-old sprung to prominence in 2016 with dominant victories in the Group 1 Hong Kong Derby and Audamars Piguet QEII Cup. Interestingly, locals can draw a form reference from his Queensland campaign under Andrew Campbell in 2015, where he won the Group 2 Eagle Farm Cup.
Vadamos, from the Andre Fabre stable, has been identified from the French jurisdiction as a potential William Hill Cox Plate candidate. Seen as an emerging weight-for-age star, Vadamos has already secured two Group 2 wins.
Four horses from the United Kingdom have been issued invitations, including Godolphin’s Group 1 winner Tryster and, for the second consecutive year, the Kevin Ryan trained The Grey Gatsby, who boasts placings behind Solow and Golden Horn. Juddmonte Farms’ Time Test and the Group 1 winner Cannock Chase round out the eleven invitations.
The MVRC has worked in conjunction with Racing Victoria’s International Recruitment Manager Leigh Jordon, with Jordon confident the club has identified horses from each of the major racing jurisdictions that will be competitive in the 2016 William Hill Cox Plate.
“The MVRC have selected a range of world class WFA performers to invite for the prestigious William Hill Cox Plate. The race is a feature Group One event on the Global Racing Calendar and is now attracting the world’s best owners and trainers with its lucrative prizemoney and invitation incentives,” said Jordon.
The Club will continue to monitor the major international Group 1 races over the coming months for other potential invitees.
FIRST ROUND OF INTERNATIONAL HORSES INVITED FOR THE 2016 WILLIAM HILL COX PLATE
A Shin Hikari Masanori Sakaguchi (Japan)
Cannock Chase Sir Michael Stoute (England)
Highland Reel Aidan O’Brien (Ireland)
Kitasan Black Hisashi Shimizu (Japan)
Last Impact Katsuhiko Sumii (Japan)
Maurice Noriyuki Hori (Japan)
The Grey Gatsby Kevin Ryan (England)
Time Test Roger Charlton (United Kingdom)
Tryster Charlie Appleby (England)
Vadamos Andre Fabre (France)
Werther John Moore (Hong Kong)
4x Japan - 4x United Kingdom - 1x French - 1x Hong Kong - 1x Ireland
Werther (NZ) invited from Hong Kong, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club