Timeform Recap - 2019 Cox Plate

Timeform Recap of the 2019 Cox Plate won by Japanese mare Lys Gracieux.

Lys Gracieux winning the Ladbrokes W S Cox Plate
Lys Gracieux winning the Ladbrokes W S Cox Plate Picture: Bruno Cannatelli

Lys Gracieux  won the first Winx-free Cox Plate in four years and she did it in the sort of style that the great mare would have been proud of. 

Style, sure, though not quite the substance. Lys Gracieux comes away from the Valley rated 125+ which sits below all four of Winx's Cox Plate wins of which her third, achieved when turning away a gritty, well-ridden Humidor, draws the most parallels. 

Winx was rated 134, and ran to 133+ when winning the 2016 Cox Plate by eight lengths. That's a different world to where Lys Gracieux resides but Lys still packs far too much punch for what remains in Australia's PWE (Post Winx Era). 

In the PWE key Cox Plate trials have been going to horses rated 118-120. Good horses, but that sort of horse has long been fodder for Winx, and it was fodder for Lys Gracieux on Saturday. 

But it's not all doom and gloom down under. The horse that dragged such a performance out of Lys Gracieux is a beacon of hope. Castelvecchio, last season's 121-rated Champion Two-Year-Old alongside Microphone, stepped out of his age group and up to the plate, posting a 124 rating in a well-run race against global formlines. 

A good overall time underpinned those global formlines and Castelvecchio was able to finish much closer to Lys Gracieux than a host of Japan's biggest stars could in June's Takarazuka Kinen where the mare won by a margin bettered only by megastars Gold Ship  and Deep Impact  in modern history. 

To the winner goes the spoils in racing, and punters want a payout before heaping too much praise, but Castelvecchio posted a performance of note here and paid a fine compliment to the similarly promising Shadow Hero  in the process. 

The three-year-old sprinters are a hot division this season and have naturally stolen the headlines, but the middle distance crew are shaping up as well. Shadow Hero posted a strong overall time when winning the Spring Champion and he did it with late strength. There's some meat on the bones there, and Thought Of You has seemingly emerged out of nowhere to be snapping at his heels courtesy of a very warm performance in his Caulfield Derby Trial. 

The Everest dragged Arcadia Queen away from the Cox Plate but she is rated 121 over 1800m and has relatively fresh legs. So perhaps the cupboard isn't as bare as it seems - we've just spread the ingredients too thin... 

The best of the local defence before the Cox Plate, judged on Timeform ratings, came from Mystic Journey and Te Akau Shark - Te Akau Shark claimed as Australian under the Crowded House rule - and Te Akau Shark can be considered another beacon of hope. 

He didn't match his big Epsom peak stretched out in trip but he did enough to think that it's representative of his true talent level, running on to third (admittedly with a fairly sweet run inside horses and sectional analysis will show that he wasn't too far back to be severely disadvantaged) from last having conceded plenty early from a wide draw. 

He was awkwardly placed for his first try at the trip but running on by a well-ridden Magic Wand, coming off an Irish Champion second (where Lys Gracieux's old sparring partner Deirdre got stitched up by the locals and in another scenario goes mighty close to winning) is nothing to sneeze at. Again, the promise of the 'local' now has the backing of a global formline and if he is to press on to a Mackinnon he would go there with a better set-up to confirm his place at the pointy end of the Aussie weight-for-age ranks.

Mystic Journey was solid, but ultimately disappointing. That said, she may be better suited by a drop back to a mile, and perhaps the very slow early tempo of the Turnbull, off a fairly light prep all round, left her lacking for match practice on the day. 

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