The Cox Plate, 1986 - Australia's Greatest Horse Race Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

The Cox Plate, 1986 - Australia's Greatest Horse Race

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It's Saturday 25 October, 1986, and here you are trackside and on the rail at Melbourne's Moonee Valley. You and the 25,255 other punters in attendance are pregnant with anticipation that a heavyweight toe-to-toe slugfest is on the cards:

... and Abaridy has drawn the outside stall, the starter on his platform, Mr King, ready. Abaridy comes in. The field locked away for the WS Cox Plate, the weight-for-age-championship coming up ...

The (WS) Cox Plate is Australia's second richest horse race1, run over 2,050m around the tight bends that comprise the compact green equine amphitheatre that is Moonee Valley.

In the 1986 edition, there are 13 runners. But you, like so many others relying on the regular racing press, have little knowledge of 11 of them because this last week, focus on two of the 'Kiwi' challengers, Bonecrusher and Our Waverley Star, has been nothing short of obsessive. The result is that Bonecrusher will start at 10-9 on favourite with Our Waverley Star not out of the reckoning second favourite at 3-1, 10-1 bar the rest. Put bluntly, the quinella is given ...

... ready to go, Roman Artist toey, settles ... should get them ...
... they're racing ...

The barriers spring open. Impramateur gets away well, as do Dandy Andy, Ma Chiquita and Society Bay. Our Waverley Star and Bonecrusher struggle to find any sort of position from out wide in barriers twelve and ten respectively, and the two favourites hit the first bend fourth and fifth from last ...

...Our Waverley Star travelling three wide, three lengths to Bonecrusher, Abaridy is deep, Dinky Flyer on the rails and Tristram brings up the rear ... they head to the 1,200 metres turn ... Roman Artist showing the way, Dandy Andy is in second position, Society Bay travelling wide ... a length and a quarter to Our Waverley Star ... he's had no luck, he's three wide of Drought and The Filbert ... Bonecrusher is next, he's 12 lengths off the lead ...

For the jockey, the Cox Plate is a tactical nightmare. For starters, Moonee Valley is a tightly wound velodrome of a course. Add to that an even field of top-quality nag, and the race could easily descend into a lottery. Careful planning, close attention and immaculate execution are the ingredients necessary for any chance at success.

Strategically, it is a race that began on the drawing board days, if not months ago. This year, 1986, is no exception. Gary Stewart, on board Bonecrusher, is determined to make sure the pressure goes on his peer Lance O'Sullivan and Our Waverley Star from a way out from the finish. And O'Sullivan, who knows where his bread might become unbuttered, is wise to the threat from Bonecrusher.

At about 1,000m out, having covered half the journey, the course swings back towards the home straight. This is where Bonecrusher makes a surge up the outside. O'Sullivan, champion that he is, is wide awake and immediately urges Our Waverley Star to respond to keep Bonecrusher wide on the final bend. Everything's wrong. Surely they've gone too early ...

... Our Waverley Star and Bonecrusher have bounded up ... it's Our Waverley Star on the inside of Bonecrusher, they've sprinted past the opposition ... Stewart's pulled the whip on Bonecrusher ... Our Waverley Star's going better than Bonecrusher near the turn, Stewart riding desperately on Bonecrusher, Our Waverley Star leads him by about a length. They've cleared away from the opposition ...

As they complete the turn, Our Waverley Star succeeds in keeping Bonecrusher wide, retaining a narrow lead, matching him stride for stride. Side by side, the two chestnut geldings hit the home straight ...

... Here's Bonecrusher raising another effort ... the two New Zealanders turn for home, with Bonecrusher a narrow leader from Our Waverley Star ... Bonecrusher and Our Waverley Star ... this is worth coming miles to see ... Bonecrusher on the outside ...

Close to the line, Stewart, exhausted, nearly falls off Bonecrusher.

... they hit the line, can't split them ...
...Bonecrusher beat Our Waverley Star in one of the greatest races ever3 ...

It's Saturday 25 October 1986, and here you are trackside on the rail at Melbourne's Moonee Valley. You, and 25,255 other punters in attendance, having roared yourselves hoarse, will depart Moonee Valley sound in the knowledge that you've just witnessed the most breathtaking spectacle in the history of Australian turf.

1After the Melbourne Cup.2Bill Collins, legendary commentator.3In fact Bonecrusher beat Our Waverley Star by a neck with The Filbert (80-1) three lengths back in third, in case you had the Trifecta.

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