Homesman primed for Cox Plate assault

Flying: G2 PB Lawrence Stakes winner Puissance De Lune (Ben Melham) in trackwork. Picture: Warrnambool Standard.
Flying: G2 PB Lawrence Stakes winner Puissance De Lune (Ben Melham) in trackwork. Picture: Warrnambool Standard.

With Winx now out of the WS Cox Plate equation, Saturday's Feehan Stakes winner Homesman has been elevated to the fourth line of betting for the October 26 weight for age championship.

Outstanding mare Mystic Journey sits atop the TAB Fixed Odds all in market at $4.50 ahead of Japanese mare Lys Gracieux, Godolphin's Avilius while Australian Bloodstock's Danceteria burst into calculations with a closing fourth to superstar Enable in the Group 1 Coral-Eclipse at Sandown (UK) on July 7.

Danceteria subsequently won over 2000 metres in G1 company at Munich and share the same line of betting as Homesman ($11).

Part owner Nick Williams was high in his praise of the six year old which was given a copybook ride by Ben Melham.

"He was terrific and there's nothing in racing that would mean more to us than to get our hands on a Cox Plate," Williams said.

"We've tried many times and come up short, but he seems to be heading in the right way."

Homesman is a proven Group 1 winner and has been competing against the best in the land after doing his early racing in Ireland.

"He won the Underwood last year on route to the Caulfield Cup and we ran him in the Caulfield Cup because he was very well in at the weights," Williams said.

Homesman is now well within sight of a Cox Plate start and as many as four the international raiders will add a deal of uncertainly about the 2040m test of stamina.

"Since we've had him in this time, the Cox Plate has been his aim, and will be his aim," Williams added.

"We'll look to go on to the Underwood and defend it and then onto Caulfield and then back to The Valley for the Cox Plate.

"We've got to win one here before they change this iconic track. It's one of the greatest places you could ever watch racing. It's like Happy Valley, you're right on top of it and it's magnificent.

"Ben [Melham] gave him a 10 out of 10 ride and obviously with the sticky draw we were concerned where we would end up so we left it to him. All credit to him and all credit to the team at Macedon who do a good job with the horses."

Ben and Nash in a class of their own

While Nash Rawiller continues to run hot in Sydney, Melham is the toast of Melbourne.

Saturday's Feehan Stakes meeting closed with Melham boasting a stunning winning strike rate of 23.4%. His 2017 Golden Slipper win on She Will Reign may well be a career highlight but there is little doubt the Victorian is in the hottest form is career.

Further storyboard highlights are just around the corner.

In the 2018/19 season, he totalled 45 wins and has already managed 15 in the first six weeks of this new season.

By comparison, Rawiller edged his new season strike rate to 23.8% with four wins at Randwick on Saturday.

He boasts 20 wins from only 84 rides and the manner in which he got the likes of Yao Dash, Baller, Miss Invincible, Sweet Deal and Dreamforce away from the gates at Ramdwick was a sight to behind.

Spanish on a Melbourne Cup Mission

English-trained, American-owned future Melbourne Cup contender Spanish Mission has won the $1 million Derby Invitational at Belmont in New York.

Raced by Team Valor International and Earle Mack, Spanish Mission has earned an automatic berth in the Breeders' Cup Turf in November with his win.

A Group winner in England, Spanish Mission is trained by David Simcock and was ridden by Jamie Spencer to win the rich 2400m-race in a tight finish from fellow European Pedro Cara.

"He's a good horse. I think he'll get better with age," Team Valor's Barry Irwin said.

"We're looking at the Melbourne Cup (in the future) with this horse. Earle would rather win that race than anything, and I'd like to win it as well.

"Spencer said the win was even better because he had dropped his right rein before the home turn.

"Going into the final turn he was giving me all he had," he said.

"I dropped my right rein and even though I was using the crop, when you drop your reins in a race, it typically signals to the horse that the race is over.

"I would've been mad with myself had we lost but he got back on his game and finished strong."

Mystic Journey the stumbling block for Hayes

Lindsay Park has yet to win the Makybe Diva Stakes since its elevation to Group One status and the presence of Mystic Journey at Flemington has the stable doubting that will change this year.

The Makybe Diva, over 1600m at Flemington on Saturday, gained its Group 1 grading in 2013 with Foreteller winning for Chris Waller.

Lindsay Park's most recent victory was in 2005 with Confectioner when David Hayes was in sole charge.

The imported Rostropovich and locally bred Qafila represent Lindsay Park which now includes co-trainers Ben Hayes and Tom Dabernig.

The stable had considered running another import, Muntaaha, but will delay his return a week.

Ben Hayes said the team was thrilled with how Rostropovich was progressing towards his first start for the stable with his preparation topped off by a recent trial victory at Cranbourne.

Formerly trained by Aidan O'Brien, Rostropovich finished fifth in last year's Cox Plate and Melbourne Cup.

He was then midfield in the Hong Kong Vase after which he spent six months in New Zealand to fulfill quarantine requirements.

"We're really looking forward to seeing what he can do first-up," Hayes said.

"We think he can run a competitive race, but there's a good one in the race which will make it a bit hard.

"He hasn't got an electrifying turn of foot, but he has got a turn of foot and the mile first-up might be all right." Hayes said.

Qafila's eye-catching first-up second to Age Of Chivalry at Caulfield on August 31 brought about a change in plans.

He said the stable had contemplated running the South Australian Derby winner over 1700m on Saturday.

"But we thought we might as well have a shot at the Makybe Diva," Hayes said.

"She's really come through that race well and will appreciate the extra trip.

"She's on a path to the Caulfield Cup, so we'll see how she goes here and then look to the Turnbull Stakes.

"After a poor trial on heavy ground at Cranbourne last week, Muntaaha will be saved for the Naturalism Stakes at Caulfield on Saturday week.

"You have to forget about his trial as he hates wet tracks," Hayes said.

"He's a real stayer and I'm looking forward to seeing him, at his trip, on a dry track."

With AAP

This story Williams looks to add Plate to sideboard first appeared on Illawarra Mercury.