Cox Plate trio intend to follow well-worn path to December's international day

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 October, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 October, 2004, 12:00am

The A$3 million Cox Plate lived right up to its promise as a springboard race for Hong Kong's international day.

Runner-up Fields of Omagh, third-placed Starcraft and the unlucky Grand Armee (fourth) are all intended participants at Hong Kong racing's day of days on December 12.

'We'll definitely be there - the Hong Kong Cup is his target race,' said Fields of Omagh's managing owner Bryan Martin. 'We are absolutely thrilled with him and delighted with Danny Nikolic's ride. He's beaten every older horse to the line and has only had to answer to the three-year-old.'

Fields of Omagh won the 2003 Cox Plate before embarking on a trip to Japan, where racing on a very heavy track seemed to knock the legs out from under him.

He then failed to run any sort of race in the Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin and went for a long spell, with the 2004 Cox Plate his long-term goal.

Martin paid tribute to Tony McEvoy, the retained trainer for David Hayes' Lindsay Park operation, who had overseen the prolonged but most unusual build-up to the Cox Plate for the seven-year-old.

'All credit to Tony McEvoy,' Martin said. 'People said the preparation was unusual, that he wasn't impressive winning his last start in Adelaide, but Tony's proved today he knew exactly what he was doing.'

The Hong Kong international races are right at the top of the priorities for Starcraft, who ran a mighty race for third despite having a distinct lack of galloping room from the 800 metres. Owner Paul Makin will decide closer to the race whether the Hong Kong Mile or Hong Kong Cup is the right race, but he will be influenced by which way British star Rakti goes.

A plan to give star Sydney weight-for-age performer Grand Armee a conservative ride backfired badly when the pace set by Regal Roller was more steady than anticipated.

Grand Armee pulled fiercely for the first half of the race and jockey Damien Oliver found him difficult to settle. The gelding seemed all at sea in the final 500 metres but the final part of his race was his best. Owner Alan Bell said the Hong Kong Cup was Grand Armee's target race, though they were still considering the Japan Cup beforehand.

Favourite Elvstroem was not among the original Hong Kong international entries and a spokesman for the owners said a trip to Asia's World City had not been on their agenda at all.