Theatre … Ocean Park leads All Too Hard home. Photo: Vince Caligiuri
Do you appreciate the colonial fare of the Cox Plate or what is becoming the French cuisine of the Melbourne Cup? The question arises about which is the better dish. Of course, every year produces different quality but many are looking for a new recipe regarding Australasia's weight-for-age championship at Moonee Valley. The circuit, more like a dog track to critics, is a problem. How can we tempt top-liners from abroad to make such a hazardous journey over 2040 metres is one of the questions asked. Well, as with the European champion Frankel, leave them in their comfort zone. Usually Moonee Valley brings out the best in horses. To watch the Cox Plate is theatre in the round. The Melbourne Cup at Flemington is distant, albeit a vision splendid. The Moonee Valley Racing Club officials seem bent on changing the Cox Plate. Being rusted in tradition, the thought of the Cox Plate on a surgically enhanced Moonee Valley is abhorrent, as is having the main course under lights. Saturday lacked the presentation and build-up of the great Cox Plates, which was generated by the enthusiasm of former chief executive the late Ian McEwan. He was the driving force in turning the Cox Plate from an entree to the Moonee Valley Cup into the main. The meeting at the track on Friday night took away the satisfaction of tantalising appetisers to make up a great all-round experience. But the Cox Plate again proved satisfying with the New Zealand- and Aussie-breds, headed by Ocean Park, going back to sixth. So we don't breed two-milers, but Ethiopia, fourth to Ocean Park, was given a stress test on Saturday and should develop into a worthy rival for the French. The Melbourne Cup at Flemington on November 6 will have to be very tasty indeed to top the Cox Plate this year.
Being bred at Trelawney Stud in New Zealand gives Ocean Park a Tulloch connection but it doesn't end there. Ocean Park is by former Australian sprinter Thorn Park out of Sayyida, a Zabeel mare, which was saved for stud after breaking her leg. Sayyida will now go to Fastnet Rock. Thorn Park was trained by Bob Thomsen, apprenticed to Tommy Smith in the Tulloch era.
Tie The Knot, 18, which died yesterday from complications of colic, was a ''life-changing horse'' for trainer Guy Walter. Carrying the red colours and white cap of the Tait family, the magnificent gelding won from 1200m to 3200m, notched 13 group events and $6.2 million in prizemoney. ''It was a privilege to have him,'' Walter said. Zuccotto, also prepared by Walter and closely related to Tie The Knot, is entered for Saturday's Wakeful Stakes and the VRC Oaks. She is out of La Zabagalione, a half-sister to Tie The Knot.
The Horse That Bart Built (Random House), the unauthorised biography of So You Think, now on sale, was the second leg last week of a daily double for racing enthusiast Helen Thomas, following her success as an owner-breeder at Wangaratta on Friday with Monogamy in a maiden. Monogamy is by King Of Roses out of One Love, and a far cry from a blue blood like So You Think. Thomas divulges details regarding the sale to Coolmore that ''broke Australia's heart''. Also to just what degree was the master, Bart Cummings, who was ill at the time, informed about the transaction? Cummings regards So You Think as the ''finest and most genuine horse'' he has trained.
''There are discernible patterns that occur when certain groups of jockeys, trainers and owners [are together]. You have to look at whether this race is worth placing bets on. I've worked as a banker and an investment banker for 23 years. I can tell you right now, I've seen lots of thieves in my industry and lots of thieves in this industry.''
Lyndon Hsu, president of the Victorian Bookmakers Association, spoke out last week. Asked by stewards to ''please explain'', Hsu maintained he was only trying to get more co-operation for racing's law enforcers from the police.
Horse to follow:
Maluckyday jumped awkwardly and unbalanced jockey Jim Cassidy when fifth, beaten 3.2 lengths, in last Wednesday's Geelong Cup under 58.5kg. Certainly none of his rivals went to post stronger in what was a top Melbourne Cup trial.
Midas Touch, the $4.20 favourite in the Moonee Valley Cup, touted as the best horse imported by Lloyd Williams and finally in top form, was beaten 13.5 lengths and jockey Hugh Bowman reported that he was making respiratory noises. Stewards yesterday reported the entire has a soft-palate problem.