10/25/2006 11:00PM

Miss Finland a Cox Plate threat


The Group 1, $2.4 million Cox Plate at Moonee Valley on Saturday will feature the Australian debuts of two horses well familiar to American racegoers in Honor in War and Grey Swallow, but the trainer David Hayes, who won last Saturday's Caulfield Cup with Tawqeet, may have an ace up his sleeve in the Australian 1000 Guineas winner Miss Finland.

Honor in War, formerly trained at Churchill Downs by Paul McGee, is now under the care of Danny O'Brien at Flemington. He has not won since taking Gulfstream's Fort Lauderdale Handicap in January, and even a repeat of his Arlington Handicap victory of August 2003 at the Cox Plate distance of 1 1/4 miles would leave him well short. Grey Swallow, however, is a another matter entirely. Formerly trained by Dermot Weld and now with the Australian Dale Sutton, Grey Swallow won the 2004 Irish Derby and the 2005 Tattersalls Gold Cup. This year he took the Jim Murray Handicap at Hollywood Park before finishing a fast-closing third to Cacique in Belmont's Manhattan Handicap in his last start on June 10.

Miss Finland's 1000 Guineas score came at Caulfield just 10 days ago. The 3-year-old filly is in at just 101 pounds, meaning that she will be getting 21 to 27 pounds from the rest of the field in her first try beyond a mile. Hayes is bringing in New Zealand champion rider Lisa Cropp for the assignment.

Miss Finland will have to beat the first three from the recent 1 1/4-mile Yalumba Stakes in Casual Pass, Pompeii Ruler, and El Segundo, as well as the Group 1 Epsom Handicap winner, Racing to Win. Also dangerous is last Saturday's Caulfield Cup runner-up Aqua d'Amore, who picks up the services of Kieren Fallon, the banned-in-Britain jockey who has been granted a license to ride in Australia.