10/23/2013 2:10PM

Australia: Fiorente uses Cox Plate as final tune-up for Melbourne Cup

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Fiorente, second in the 2012 Melbourne Cup, can solidify his status as the favorite for this year’s Melbourne Cup on Nov. 5 with a win in Saturday’s $2,880,000 Cox Plate at Moonee Valley Racecourse in Australia.

The Group 1 Cox Plate, run over 1 1/2 miles on turf, is a key prep for the two-mile Melbourne Cup. Fiorente won a Group 2 race over a mile at Moonee Valley in September, but was fourth in the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes at Flemington on Oct. 5. Jockey Blake Shinn rides Fiorente for Gai Waterhouse.

In the 14-runner Cox Plate, Fiorente, a 5-year-old Irish-bred horse by Monsun, must beat Puissance de Lune, who was second in the Turnbull; and It’s a Dundeel, the winner of five Group 1 races in Australia in the last 13 months.  It’s a Dundeel, a 4-year-old New Zealand-bred colt by High Chaparral, won the Grade 1 Underwood Stakes at Caulfield on Sept. 21.

There will be support for Long John, a 3-year-old who won the Group 1 Caulfield Guineas on Oct. 12.

Fiorente and Puissance de Lune are two leading contenders for the Melbourne Cup, along with Dandino and Mount Athos, who are not part of the Cox Plate field.