Starspangledbanner colt State Of Rest wins the Cox Plate!
Starspangledbanner’s Northern Hemisphere 3yo State Of Rest survived a tense 30-minute protest to be crowned Cox Plate champion on Saturday, handing Irish trainer Joseph O’Brien a third Melbourne spring major in five years.
O’Brien, the dual Melbourne Cup winner courtesy of Australian-owned Rekindling (2017) and reigning champion Twilight Payment (2020), now joins father Aidan on the Cox Plate honour roll.
O‘Brien was a 21-year-old jockey and aspiring trainer when his father brought Adelaide to The Valley in 2014 and left with the coveted silver plate.
On Saturday, tuned in from Ireland, the 28-year-old O’Brien experienced the thrill of winning one himself, partnering with Ballarat-based compatriot John Allen.
O’Brien was on the phone to stable representative Mark Power as State Of Rest passed the post, with a slender margin to Godolphin colt Anamoe, and maintained contact through the closed stewards inquiry.
State Of Rest and Anamoe brushed in the closing stages of the $5m major but stewards ultimately deemed the contact negligible.
But the incident was enough for Allen to mute any celebration after the winning post — just in case.
“I knew across the line I‘d given him a bit of a bump,” a relieved Allen said after the inquiry.
“Craig (Williams) is always a good talker. I think there was too many ‘Paddys’ in there the boys (stewards) were saying they couldn’t understand us.
“The longer it was going definitely a few anxious moments but I think the right decision was made.”
But any celebration missed Allen is sure to make up for as his 14th career Group 1 and first spring major coincided with his partner, Emma Church training a benchmark winner at Yarra Valley.
“She’ll be celebrating as well,” Allen said.
State Of Rest makes contact with Anamoe in the home straight. Picture: Michael Klein
Allen gave State Of Rest the perfect and economical ride off the speed and when the gap opened at the top of the straight – earlier than expected – he shot to the lead.
“I knew down the side I was travelling well but I knew the main chances were probably going to be behind me,” Allen said.
“I had to go quickly before the gap closed.”
Caulfield Guineas winner Anamoe charged into second, pegging back the margin with every stride.
Champion mare Verry Elleegant stormed late to finish third ahead of Mo’unga.
Power confirmed the Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes – a date with Zaaki potentially – was on the cards for State Of Rest but the decision would ultimately rest with O’Brien.
“I don’t know where he goes next,” Power said.
“That’s magic and he’s (now) proven himself to be a world class international competing at the top stage, well capable and he’s a really exciting horse going forward.
“The Mackinnon was an option for him, whether he goes or not I don‘t know. We’ll see how he pulls up.”
John Allen was finally able to celebrate the Cox Plate win. Picture: Racing Photos via Getty Images
Still trembling from the protest Power praised Allen’s ride aboard State Of Rest.
“It was a super, super ride from Johnny, he‘s strong as an ox, no better man to have on your side and the horse is super, he’s a proper, proper horse,” Power said.
“He’s really impressive, a savage turn of foot, sat off them and the gap probably opened up too soon for Johnny but when it was there he had to take it and everything worked out in the end.”
The Cox Plate only came on to the radar in August when State Of Rest quickened through a gap to win an American Grade 1 at Saratoga, New York State.
A helicopter view of the contact between State Of Rest and Anamoe. Picture: Racing.com
“We dipped our toe in the water trying him at Group 1 level, a bit of a big jump for him, but he took to it well … when we realised he could dine at that table the Cox Plate became the next logical step,” Power said.
“He (O’Brien) rang me after the race congratulating me. He’s a brilliant, brilliant trainer, he puts the structure in place and we carry it out, it’s fantastic, I’m delighted for him.
“We’re lucky enough to have the right owners, it’s not simple economically, logistically it’s not simple to travel horses over here, we’re lucky enough we have owners willing to let you do your job.”
O’Brien incredibly could add a third Melbourne Cup with Twilight Payment to go around at Flemington on Tuesday week.