By Nicholas Godfrey
So you know Sir Dragonet won the 100th edition of the Ladbrokes Cox Plate, Australia’s greatest weight-for-age race, at Moonee Valley in Melbourne on Saturday. Here’s some more stuff you might like to know …
What’s going on?
Sir Dragonet rubs salt into Aidan O’Brien’s wound
After Anthony Van Dyck was so narrowly beaten by Verry Ellegant in last week’s Caulfield Cup, Aidan O’Brien had to settle for another second place as Armory was beaten a length and a quarter by his former stablemate Sir Dragonet in the 100th running of the Cox Plate.
Considering the identity of the winner, the Ballydoyle maestro wouldn’t be human if the result hadn’t left him ruing what might have been as he chased his second victory in the A$5m (£2.74) event after Adelaide (2014).
Beaten into fifth as favourite in last year’s Derby at Epsom, Sir Dragonet was making his Australian debut in the Cox Plate after being purchased by a high-profile syndicate headed by property developer Ozzie Kheir.
Armory, for his part, “struggled on the ground” according to jockey Ben Melham, while Magic Wand was withdrawn on the eve of the race owing to a hoof abscess.
Softish ground, tight track – ring any bells?
Always highly regarded, Sir Dragonet could not win in seven starts for O’Brien following his eight-length romp in the Chester Vase in 2019.
The son of Camelot left Ballydoyle only in the summer after coming second to stablemate Magical in the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh in July. He had been with his current trainers, the Ciaron Maher/David Eustace partnership, for just over a fortnight.
Glen Boss: a hug too much
Glen Boss was fined a total of A$2,000 (£1,100), after falling foul of a pair of rules including COVID-19 protocols during his celebrations.
In typical fashion, the jockey stood high in the irons and gave a fist pump as Sir Dragonet crossed the line – or just before he crossed the line, which is why the gesture cost him A$1,000. Then he was later fined another A$1,000 for hugging stable staff in breach of strict Victorian lockdown measures.
Last-minute call-up for ‘Group 1 Glen’
Veteran jockey Glen Boss landed his fourth Cox Plate victory after Makybe Diva in 2005, So You Think in 2009 and Ocean Park in 2012.
“As a young boy I used to watch a VCR of Kingston Town and Manikato and I wore that out, so the Cox Plate was ingrained into my psyche as a young boy,” he said.
Known as ‘Group 1 Glen’ throughout his career owing to his prowess at the highest level, the 51-year-old was a late call-up after Hugh Bowman opted to take a careless-riding suspension this week in order to allow him to ride Anthony Van Dyck in last week’s Caulfield Cup.
“Obviously with Hughey Bowman … sorry mate!” said Boss, who thanked his colleague for putting his name in the frame.
“I got the call up and he was a part of it,” he explained. “They put up a few names and Hughey was bringing it right back to me, ‘put Bossy on’!”
And trainer Ciaron Maher’s view? “There’s no bigger big-race jockey than Bossy,” he said. “We made the right call there with the right jockey and he got the job done.”
Ciaron Maher thanks his Newmarket connection
Former jump jockey Ciaron Maher, the rising force of the Melbourne training scene in partnership with David Eustace, rated Sir Dragonet’s win as the highlight of his burgeoning career.
“This is something else,” he said. “You dream of having a runner in it, let alone winning the race.”
Maher was quick to praise his staff – plus the ‘Newmarket connection’ of trainer James Eustace and his son Harry, brother to Maher’s training partner David. “They looked after him at Newmarket,” said Maher.
As for David Eustace, he added: “Dave, he’s great. Dave is a very hard worker. He’s a young bloke. We gel well together but the whole team. It’s a big operation.”
Sir Dragonet set for the Melbourne Cup
Only five horses have achieved the Cox Plate/Melbourne Cup double – Nightmarch (1929), Phar Lap (1930),Rising Fast (1954),Saintly (1996) and Makybe Diva (2005).
“Ozzie bought him for the Melbourne Cup and he’ll be even better in that race,” Maher said. He is 8-1 second favourite (from 16) behind TIger Moth, another former stablemate at Ballydoyle.
Melbourne Cup betting (Ladbrokes): 9-2 Tiger Moth, 8 Sir Dragonet, Surprise Baby, Verry Elleegant, 9 Anthony Van Dyck, Russian Camelot, 12 Prince Of Arran, Finche, 20 Ashrun, Master Of Reality, Stratum Albion, Warning, 25 bar.
Miami Bound also Melbourne-bound
Also set to run in the Flemington two-miler is last year’s VRC Oaks winner Miami Bound after a 25-1 victory on the Cox Plate undercard in the G2 Moonee Valley Gold Cup. “I would think she’d definitely be an acceptor now,” said trainer Danny O’Brien.
“She won that impressively. When you’re that close it is pretty hard not to run. It’s more a difficult essay for those fillies that had won an Oaks and come and win a Melbourne Cup, I don’t think it’s been done for 30 or 40 years. I think we’ll be there on the first Tuesday and we’ll give it a crack.”
Four-timer for Jamie Kah
Miami Bound was ridden by Jamie Kah, who enjoyed a memorable Cox Plate day with four victories as she also scored on Sneaky Five, Sovereign Award and La Mexicana.
Currently rated the world’s number one female jockey according to Thoroughbred Racing Commentary’s global rankings, she leads the Melbourne metro premiership. She was tenth on Buckhurst in the Cox Plate.
Shall we talk about it?
Glen Boss (Sir Dragonet’s jockey): “It’s a special race and I just couldn’t have scripted the run any better. He just gave me a lovely ride. I was twitching my fingers throughout the race and he was there for me. I thought, this is nearly going to be winning this. He was up for the task.
“Every time I moved my pinkie he was waiting for me to ask him for a real command and I just knew that all I had to do was ask him when I got clean air. The run came and he was very strong to the line.
“I only thought once the rain came that this was the right horse. He’s got great form and he just might go a little bit better in a Melbourne Cup, I’m telling you, because he was actually getting warmed up towards the line. He was actually getting quicker towards the post.
“The way he gave me a feel today, he might be running in a Melbourne Cup and running very well in one.”
Ciaron Maher (Sir Dragonet’s trainer): “It’s a Cox Plate. It hasn’t sunk in. It’s unbelievable. You grow up watching these races and to knock one off is pretty special. You get a horse of this calibre … I’ve looked after him for a bit over two weeks. He’s just phenomenal. He never missed an oat. We were very confident with his fitness.”
Ben Melham (Armory’s jockey): “He was good. He just struggled in the ground and I had to keep him wide on the fresh ground. Just got beaten by a better one on the day. He had his chance.”
Damian Oliver (Russian Camelot’s jockey): “Great effort. He ran really good. Got into a nice position. Was probably a little close to a strong speed from the barrier but we did as well as we could. He was super brave even when the first two came to him. He fought it out really well.”
Kerrin McEvoy (Probabeel’s jockey): “The ground went against her. She tried very hard but she found it tough over that last furlong in the ground.”
Damian Lane (Aspetar’s jockey): “Didn’t handle the track or the condition or the circuit.”