Dan Excel getting act together for Cox Plate bid
Trainer John Moore maps out 'unconventional' trial and race programme for his tough Group One star
Hong Kong’s Cox Plate aspirant, Dan Excel, will step out for the most serious test of his Australian campaign in a Randwick barrier trial on Wednesday as he prepares for a September 28 return to racing.
The Singapore International Airlines Cup winner had Tommy Berry aboard in a significant piece of work last Saturday morning at Rosehill, where the gelding is stabled with trainer John Moore’s brother, Gary, but John said on Tuesday the trial would see the gelding step up a cog.
“Tommy rang me straight after the gallop and said the horse was getting there, but was still on the big side and had quite a blow,” Moore said. “But considering he’ll have a trial on Thursday – and no doubt blow him out – we are right on schedule with respect to the first run in the Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes [in Melbourne] on the 28th of September.
“I envisage giving him a second trial, which will be at Rosehill, 10 days after the trial on Thursday, which should just bring him to a fitness level where I think he can run really well in the Sir Rupert Clarke. Up until now, there are no soundness issues, all concerned are happy with his progress and I look forward to his first run.”
With a month between the Group One Sir Rupert Clarke (1,400m) and Australia’s championship race, the Cox Plate (2,040m), Dan Excel will have another run in between in the Group One Toorak Handicap (1,600m) at Caulfield.
“It’s my way of doing things. It’s not so conventional or so I’m told by the Australian press. They look at the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes as the lead-up, but I didn’t see running Dan Excel first-up at a mile as being the right way to go,” Moore said.
“Like in Hong Kong, I like to build a horse into going over a bit of ground – so 1,400m, then a mile, then into the Cox Plate, with two weeks between runs – and knowing that this horse is a tough customer."
It’s a path Moore took with Super Kid in 2005, when that horse was beaten a neck in each of the first two races in impressive displays before his form dropped away on Cox Plate day.
“But you’ve got to remember Super Kid didn’t have the advantage of going into Australia in May-June and acclimatising, getting used to the environment, and he trained off after the second run,” Moore said.
“He got beaten at the weights first start, beaten at the weights second start, in the same races, the Sir Rupert Clarke and Toorak and he went to the Cox Plate and ran seventh or eighth, but I really think by the time he reached that race he’d bottomed.
“We’ve done something different with Dan Excel and I believe it’s the right way to go and he’s going to be very competitive in whatever he runs in.”
Berry looks a likely Cox Plate partner for Dan Excel, although Moore gave the impression that engagement was not set in stone yet.
“Tommy did say he had nothing else for the Cox Plate at this stage. The Sir Rupert Clarke is run on a Sunday so I would think he would be free to fly down from Sydney to ride him there,” he said. “The Toorak is still up in the air, but at the moment the Cox Plate is looking good – there’s nothing else that he’s firmly booked for.”