The Spring Carnival focus moves to The Valley after another successful Caulfield Cup Carnival.

The Carnival kicks off with the rare running of a Group 1 under lights when The Valley host the $2,000,000 Group 1 Manikato Stakes over the 1200m at standard weight for age. Named in honour of one of Australia’s greatest Champion sprinters in Manikato who won an incredible five William Reid Stakes in a row around the tight Valley circuit and he rightfully puts his name to a Group 1 race in the Spring for sprinters.

This race boasts some elite sprinters on the winner’s list including Redoute’s Choice (1999), Hay List (2010), Sepoy (2011) and Chautauqua (2015).

Once the night meeting has concluded all eyes point to one of the great days on the Australian Turf Calendar in W.S.Cox Plate Day.

The $5,000,000 Cox Plate is Group 1 weight for age Championship of Australasia at The Valley racecourse run in October during the Melbourne Spring Carnival.

Run over 2040m on the tight turning circuit it is a test for agile horse and fearless riders to navigate the sweeping turn out of the straight the first time and balance their equine athletes to relax for what becomes a testing final 600m from “the school”.

The race was named in honour of the Moonee Valley Racing Clubs founder in William Samuel Cox and first run on Saturday 28th October 1922 with a purse of 1000 pounds.

The first running of the Cox Plate was announced by chairman Alister Clark at the conclusion of the 1920-21 AGM when he said, almost as an afterthought: “I did desire to touch upon one thing that slipped my memory. We have been hoping to get a weight-for age race at Moonee Valley.

“I think there is no doubt that in our next Cup program we will be able to have a good  weight-for-age race. The distance has yet to be decided, but the stake will be £1,000.


The first running was won by the imported horse Violoncello who was owned by famed Sydney retail owner Sir Samuel Hordern. The race was run over 9 ½ furlongs and carrying saddlecloth no 6 he saluted to become the inaugural winner of the weight for age Championship.

The W.S.Cox Plate is a who’s who of Champion horse from Australia, New Zealand and abroad including Phar Lap (1930-31), Rising Fast (1954), Tulloch (1960), Tobin Bronze (1966-67), Kingston Town (1980,81,82), Makybe Diva (2005), So You Think (2009-10) and Winx (2015,16,17.18).

Some of the most memorable Cox Plates have their origin from a spot on The Valley racecourse affectionately known as “the school” which is at approximately the 600m from home on The Valley course. So named as the Moonee Ponds Primary School is situated opposite the track.

Who can forget in 1986 when the two Kiwis Bonecrusher and Our Waverley Star paired off for a titanic struggle before Bonecrusher got the upperhand and achieved “equine immortality”.

In 1992, in what was widely acknowledged as one of the best fields ever assembled in a W.S.Cox Plate, the favourite the Lee Freedman trained Naturalism was traveling sweetly with Mick Dittman aboard when brought down by Caulfield Guineas winner Palace Reign. In what was a bittersweet moment the stablemate Super Impose went on to win the race.

When Brent Thomson asked Dulcify to accelerate from “the school” he quickly put a space on them in 1979 and demolished the best of the best.

Hard to believe that any galloper could dominate this race for multiple years and when Kingston Town won his third straight Cox Plate in 1982 many of the experts stated it would never be done again particularly in their lifetime but no one could foresee the brilliance of the mighty mare Winx.

To hear the crowd stand and roar as Hugh Bowman started to bring her into the race from “the school” was something never before experienced on a racecourse. The amphitheatre of the tight Valley circuit amplifies the noise to deafening levels and she completed something that will remain in the history books for centuries to come.

No reason this year’s edition will not create the same excitement albeit the crowd will be doing it from their lounge rooms instead of the grandstand.