Crackerjack cast sought to challenge Winx
RISING English star Cracksman heads a list of 13 international targets for this year's $5 million Cox Plate, with a crop of overseas raiders likely to challenge Australian racing queen Winx's bid for an unprecedented fourth win in the weight-for-age championship.
In what looms as one of the most eagerly-anticipated Cox Plates in recent memory, a host of global stars have been sounded out about making the trip, including horses from five different zones and from the world's leading stables.
The Moonee Valley Racing Club is confident this year's $2 million boost in prizemoney - the first increase in 16 years - will provide more incentive for greater international representation this year, and into the future.
"We have identified what we believe to be the best weight-for-age horses and we hope they are keen to take on Winx and create a brilliant spectacle," MVRC chief executive Michael Browell said.
"We are confident we can entice horses on the world stage to compete at the Valley in the richest Group 1 turf race at 2000m in the world."
Cracksman, the outstanding son of Frankel, has won seven of his nine career starts, with the most recent success being a narrow Group 1 victory in the Coronation Cup at Epsom last week.
With an international ranking of 125, the John Gosden-trained horse appears headed for more success at Royal Ascot this month, with Racing Victoria's general manager of International and Racing Operations Paul Bloodworth hoping for a Spring showdown with Winx.
Invitations have been sent to connections of the 13 horses pinpointed by the MVRC and Bloodworth and his team.
Four are from Japan, two from the United Kingdom, two from the United Arab Emirates, three from Aidan O'Brien's Ireland operations, one from France, and one from the United States.
"I am excited by the invitations we have sent out for the 2018 Ladbrokes Cox Plate," Bloodworth said.
"We have been strategic in our approach, with these horses representing some of the world's biggest trainers and owners who we would love to see compete in Melbourne.
"The hard work begins now … (to) entice them to come across and tackle not only the 2018 Cox Plate, but the other Spring Carnival riches."
Winx is rated $1.55 chance to win a fourth Cox Plate, with trainer Chris Waller preparing the wonder mare for what could be her final campaign on the track.
A new market done to include the international targets rates Cracksman as a $26 chance, along with Godolphin's Benbatl on the same line of betting.
O'Brien, who won the Cox Plate with Adelaide in 2014, has received invitations for three of his horses - recent Tattersalls Gold Cup winner Lancaster Bomber, UAE Derby winner Mendelssohn and dual Group 1 winner Saxon Warrior.
Godolphin's international quest for its maiden Cox Plate could rest with the impressive Benbatl, as well as Thunder Snow, whose sire Helmet, started favourite and ran eighth in the 2011 Cox Plate, won by Pinker Pinker.
Moonee Valley has made no secret of the fact it is keen to chase Japanese runners, and has reached out to four possible candidates - Almond Eye, Mozu Ascot, Epoca D'Oro and Persian Knight.
No American-trained horse has made the trip to Australia to contest the Cox Plate, but Bloodworth hopes to change that this year with Yoshida, one of the best turf gallopers in the US.
Bloodworth said quarantine issues precluded invitations going out to Hong Kong representatives, but he was hopeful that would change in the future.
The MVRC will continue to monitor racing around the world in the coming months, with late invitations to be granted if the situation warranted it, as the countdown to the big race gathers momentum.
THE INTERNATIONAL INVITEES
CRACKSMAN UK John Gosden
BENBATL UAE Saeed Bin Suroor
ALMOND EYE JPN Sakae Kunieda
RECOLETOS FR Carlis Laffon-Parias
MOZU ASCOT JPN Yoshito Yahagi
POET'S WORD UK Sir Michael Stoute
LANCASTER BOMBER IRE Aidan O'Brien
YOSHIDA USA William Mott
THUNDER SNOW UAE Saeed bin Suroor
EPOCA D'ORO JPN Hideaki Fujiwara
SAXON WARRIOR IRE Aidan O'Brien
MENDELSSOHN IRE Aidan O'Brien
PERSIAN KNIGHT JPN Yasutoshi Ikee