10/19/2011 3:53PM

Australia's $3M Cox Plate a faceoff for Jimmy Choux and Helmet


The Cox Plate, Australia's most important and richest weight-for-age event, will be conducted late Saturday afternoon at Melbourne's unique Moonee Valley Racecourse. In the buildup, the 2040-meter event (approximately 10 furlongs) and its expected field of 14 has been hyped as a showdown between longtime favorite Jimmy Choux and upstart sensation Helmet.

New Zealand import Jimmy Choux, a 4-year-old Thorn Park-sired horse who will carry 57.5 kilos (or about 127 pounds) from post 10, has an imposing 12-for-21 record that includes victories in March's Rosehill Guineas on his first Australian raid and, most recently, in the Oct. 1 Spring Classic at Hastings Racecourse, his home country's key prep at the Cox Plate distance.

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Reportedly, Jimmy Choux, who will be ridden by his usual jockey Jonathan Riddell, has shown a real affinity for Moonee Valley's unusual rectangular configuration in recent days. This is significant as the Cox Plate field will tackle four tight left-handed turns during the race.

Helmet, Sheikh Mohammed's speedy homebred based in New South Wales with trainer Peter Snowden, has been a revelation since coming south to Victoria two races back and going counterclockwise. After a brazen display of speed when taking the Oct. 8 Caulfield Guineas, Snowden commented on Helmet's progress and increasing comfort level with "the way he switches his legs and travels over the Melbourne way of going."

Drawn in post 11, Helmet, a powerful chestnut Exceed and Excel colt, gets a massive weight break as the lone 3-year-old in the race and will carry just 49.5 kilos (or about 110 pounds) and rider Kerrin McEvoy.

Clear third choice Rekindled Interest, a 4-year-old Redoute's Choice gelding, is a course specialist with a win here over the Cox Plate distance in last October's AAMI Vase and, more recently, in the 1600-meter Group 2 Feehan Stakes on Sept. 10.

Others to note are Descarado, convincing winner of the Oct. 8 Caulfield Stakes for top trainer Gai Waterhouse, and Glass Harmonium, a former British-based stayer who would be suited by the week's forecasted rain showers.

The Cox Plate, whose purse has been increased to $3 million for the first time, was first run in 1922 and is named for Moonee Valley's founder, W.S. Cox. Last year's renewal was won by champion So You Think, who, following his purchase by Coolmore, went to Europe this season and won Group 1 races in England and Ireland. This year's Cox Plate is scheduled to go off at 1:35 a.m. Eastern on Saturday.