The last horse to win the Epsom and go on to win the Cox Plate was champion Winx in 2014. Of course, Probabeel is yet to prove she’s in the same grade as the immortal, but Plumptre said the Jamie Richards-trained mare could win this year’s race. Richards finished third in the race last year with Te Akau Shark, who also won the Epsom in the lead-up.
She’ll follow a similar preparation; she’ll arrive in Melbourne just over a week before the race and base herself with Anthony Freedman at Flemington and have her first look at The Valley on the Tuesday before the race.
“It’s the 100th running and I think we’ve taken a look at the opposition that’s going to be around and we think she’s a top-four chance in a race like that,” Plumptre said.
“There are some very good horses going into it. Obviously Danny O’Brien’s horse [Russian Camelot], we’ve got a lot of respect for him and a number of others, but she’s workman like this mare. She’s a dream to train. She takes things in her stride and we think she deserves her chance.”
Plumptre, who has worked for Lloyd Williams and Godolphin, said it was a pretty easy decision to overlook the Golden Eagle in favour of the Cox Plate.
“If you look at a race like the Cox Plate, you put it in the same bracket as the three-year-old colts in a Caulfield Guineas or two-year-olds in a Golden Slipper,” he said.
“They’re time-honoured races and they’ve got a great tradition. They’re nearly always won by very good horses.
“Prize money is very important, that’s why we’re running horses in Australia, but our agenda is also about our broodmare band and the Cambridge Stud brand and those yellow and black colours running in races that matter.
“I’m not saying the Golden Eagle doesn’t matter but in terms of what we’re trying to achieve a race of international reputation like the Cox Plate, it does tick a lot of boxes.”
Plumptre’s career highlight to date was being part of the career of Mahogany, who he purchased for Williams and raced with Lee Freedman.
Mahogany won a Sires Produce, two Guineas, two Derbies and two Lightnings, but Plumptre will never forget the day he ran second to Cambridge Stud’s own graduate Octagonal in 1995.
“I don’t think anything would ever knock Mahogany off his perch but I don’t think people would remember how to spell Mahogany our days,” he said.
“For me, it would have to be a very good horse to knock him off his perch. [That’s] at the time how good Octagonal was. We’d love to win a Cox Plate. It would be right up there.”
Damien Ractliffe is the Chief Racing Reporter for The Age.