By Jon Lees
Ireland: Saratoga Derby winner State Of Rest could have his sights raised at one of the world’s biggest weight-for-age contests by tackling Australia’s Cox Plate.
His Melbourne Cup-winning trainer Joseph O’Brien made a late nomination into the A$5 million Moonee Valley contest for State Of Rest this week, a challenge which is being given serious thought by the handler and owner Teme Valley Racing.
State Of Rest delivered Teme Valley’s second G1 success when he beat a field containing other Europeans Bolshoi Ballet, Secret Protector and Cadillac in the $1 million turf race at Saratoga (August 7).
“A mile and a half stretches him but over ten furlongs around Moonee Valley he may not meet any stronger field than he did last Saturday so putting him in the Cox Plate which offers £1.5 million to the winner made a lot of sense,” said Teme Valley racing manager Richard Ryan.
“The big issue is the long haul flight, a multi-day scanning procedure and all the quarantining for horses and staff. Trying to peak a horse is very difficult for any event but this will be a tricky challenge for Joseph in having him return from Saratoga and then peak him to go into quarantine for a September 9 flight.”
He added: “So there will be a few headaches but we like the idea and we have to go through the process of trying to make it happen and hope all the pieces fall into place.
“We would be foregoing any return to the US and races in Europe, so committing to the Cox Plate would take away every other option. We would probably take in the Mackinnon Stakes after as part of the same plan.”
Teme Valley already has one O’Brien horse in Australia having taken the decision earlier this year to send Numerian to Sydney trainer Annabel Neasham. The Group-placed five-year-old beat last year’s Cox Plate winner Sir Dragonet in a Listed race in 2020.
“The significant Group races in Ireland over ten furlongs are invariably filled with high class horses and his form is good enough to be at Carnival level in Australia so we took the view his abilities may be best served there,” said Ryan. “He is a very capable animal on his day and goes well fresh.”
Teme Valley registered a first G1 victory last year when Gear Up, trained by Mark Johnston, won the Criterium de Saint-Cloud. Tenth in the Derby, he last ran in the Bahrain Trophy but will not race again this season.
“He is out for the season,” said Ryan. “We expected more of him in the Derby and after giving him a complete MOT after subsequent similar efforts we found a small issue that we have to put right. Hopefully there will be a huge improvement from him when he returns.”