By Nicholas Godfrey
Australia: Dual Melbourne Cup-winning trainer Joseph O’Brien is chasing more major success in Australia on Saturday when State Of Rest is the only European runner in the Ladbrokes Cox Plate.
Ten runners headed by former Sir Michael Stoute-trained Zaaki, star racemare Verry Elleegant and Godolphin three-year-old Anamoe have been declared for the A$5m (£2.7m) contest at Moonee Valley.
Last seen winning the G1 Saratoga Derby in New York, State Of Rest is considered an outsider in Australasia’s most prestigious weight-for-age race, won by Joseph’s father Aidan in 2014 with Adelaide.
“After his win in America we thought this was a logical next step,” said O’Brien, speaking on a virtual preview for the Valley’s website.
“That was 9½ furlongs on a tight left-handed track and he set back a little further than we expected but he really came home very strong in the straight,” added the 28-year-old trainer, who landed the Melbourne Cup with Rekindling (2017) and Twilight Payment (2020). The latter will defend his title at Flemington on November 2.
Owned by Teme Valley Racing, State Of Rest is a four-year-old who will be having only his ninth run in the Cox Plate, making him the least experienced horse in the field.
“I’m not too worried about that,” O’Brien said. “He ran a good few times as a two-year-old and he has rose to every task we’ve set him and has plenty of experience, so I’m not too worried about that even though he doesn’t have the miles on the clock some of his competition does.
“He probably does have to step up again form wise but we think the conditions will suit him well and the track will suit him well and he has a chance of running a big race hopefully.”
Ground conditions are unlikely to faze the son of Starspangledbanner, who will be ridden by O’Brien’s fellow countryman, the Irish expat Johnny Allen.
“He has form as a two-year-old on ground that was nearly soft so hopefully he can handle most conditions,” said the trainer, who saddled Buckhurst to finish tenth in 2020.
“He’s quite a straightforward horse really and his preparation seems to have gone well, we think the track will suit him and the race will suit him well. It’s very special to have a runner in the race and to have a horse that can take part.”
The Cox Plate field could yet lose a couple of runners as last year’s Arc fourth Gold Trip, now trained in Australia, and New Zealand star Callsign Mav must pass the Racing Victoria vets on Friday morning after showing signs of lameness.
• Visit the Moonee Valley website