The 103rd edition of the Ladbrokes Cox Plate will take place at The Valley this Saturday, and there is a genuine case to be made for almost three-quarters of the field.  

Hong Kong sensation Romantic Warrior headlines the market ahead of his second start down under, while the bulk of the field features multiple Group 1 winners such as Alligator Blood, Mr Brightside, Militarize, and Zaaki. 

The Maher and Eustace team are out for their second Cox Plate win with last year’s Melbourne Cup winner Gold Trip, while champion jockey James McDonald has his sights set on another win on Romantic Warrior after steering Anamoe to victory last year.  

It shapes to be one of the most memorable editions of the time-honoured staying test, and our thoughts on every runner in this year’s $5 million Ladbrokes Cox Plate can be found below! 

1. Romantic Warrior (7)  

Danny Shum will be hoping for a more improved effort from Hong Kong superstar Romantic Warrior on Saturday.  

The dual Group 1 winner was a little keen on debut in the Turnbull Stakes at Flemington, over-racing in the early stages and a little one-paced when something was asked of him down the straight.  

Still, the reigning Queen Elizabeth Cup winner is certainly capable of much better, and all reports suggest he worked the tight turns nicely in a gallop at The Valley during the week.  

Alongside his fitness, the selection of Gate 7 is a small query, but with improvement sure to come under James McDonald, the Irish import is still the one to beat on class alone.  

2. Zaaki (12)  

The Annabel Neasham-trained Zaaki has been racing well without winning so far this spring. 

The multiple Group 1 winner has placed in both the Winx and 7 Stakes at Randwick over the last couple of months, both proving strong form references with Fangirl going on win the King Charles Stakes a fortnight ago – the same race Zaaki was scratched from.  

No horse has ever won the Cox Plate from barrier 12, and although he does appear a long way off his best, it wouldn’t be surprising if Damian Lane steers the nine-year-old into a place with the right run up on the speed.  

3. Mr Brightside (2)  

Mr Brightside has gone to another level this prep winning both the Memsie and Makybe Diva Stakes in succession.  

He was denied a hat-trick of Group 1 wins in the King Charles III Stakes a couple of weeks ago, but certainly lost no admirers when producing a well-timed run from midfield to finish a distant second to Fangirl.  

A wide run in transit and the tempo were against him that day, while it’s also fair to wonder if he might have been wanting further in his fourth run back.  

His record over 2000m doesn’t impress, and although barrier 2 hasn’t produced a winner since Might And Power, he does map to get another soft run in transit.  

Proven at The Valley, a win here would be the icing on a very memorable spring.  

4. Alligator Blood (5)  

The Gator is back for another crack after finishing 2.1 lengths off Anamoe in last year’s edition.  

The Waterhouse and Bott seven-year-old hasn’t been starved for wins since then, going on to claim four Group 1’s – two coming over the last month in the Underwood and Caulfield Stakes.  

Taking nothing away, his win over 2000m last time out was very good, but this a different race entirely with loads more class and more than likely, a lot of speed.  

That said, he should be able to slot across from barrier 5 and run his usual race up front, but whether he’s got what it takes to fend off a late challenge remains to be seen. 

5. Gold Trip (8)  

Gold Trip heads to The Valley on a short seven-day backup after storming home late for third in the Caulfield Cup last week.  

The stablemate to Alligator Blood had plenty against him from the awkward alley, but that didn’t stop him making up a stack of ground from the tail to finish 2.2 lengths off Without A Fight.  

The French import was enormous the start prior over 2000m, working home from a wide position to defeat West Wind Blows by nearly two lengths in the Turnbull.  

He’s likely to head straight to the Melbourne Cup next week to defend his title, but with Mark Zahra back on board from a much better draw, this might be his best chance at another Group 1.  

6. My Oberon (4)  

My Oberon hasn’t won a race since he claimed the Crystal Mile on this same day a year ago.  

There was a good gap between himself and Nugget for third in the King Charles a couple of weeks ago, but this is an even bigger ask out to 2000m. 

7. Pinstriped (11)  

Pinstriped is in-form, but he’s another one facing a much stiffer challenge than the company he’s faced recently.  

The Street Boss gelding won the Feehan in impressive fashion two back at The Valley, backing that up to run fifth in the Toorak five weeks later.  

He’s untried over 2000m though and is likely to struggle from a tricky gate. 

8. Fangirl (9) 

Fangirl is attempting 2000m for the first time coming off a third Group 1 win in the King Charles Stakes two weeks ago.  

She continues to fly under the radar in big races like these, especially for a mare that was placed behind Anamoe on three straight occasions during the autumn.  

That said, she’s got a job at hand from a difficult barrier, one that will likely see her settle toward the tail early under Zac Purton. Whether that set up suits is tough to know, especially given her lack of experience racing at The Valley.  

9. Duais (1)  

She’s been slightly frustrating to back of late, but there still looks to be improvement to come from Edward Cummings’ mare, Duais. 

The daughter of Shamus Award was again in the money two weeks ago in the Caulfield Stakes, stoking up along the inside where she stuck to the task quite well for third.  

Having finally drawn an inside gate, she might need a little luck with Damien Oliver now on board, but there’s been a lot to like about the way she’s found the line on both occasions. 

The fact the stable chose to target the Cox Plate instead of the Caulfield Cup last week warrants respect, and if she gets the right run, she should give this a real shake.  

10. Victoria Road (6) 

Victoria Road is the only international import on debut in this year’s Cox Plate.  

The Irish raider was the winner of the Breeders Cup at Keeneland last November, finishing several lengths off undefeated four-year-old Ace Impact the run prior.  

He sets up well from barrier 6, but with all of his wins coming between 1600-1800m, he’s probably one worth watching first.  

11. Militarize (3)  

Winner of the Golden Rose Stakes, Militarize steps out in search of his fourth Group 1 in what is also his first look at 2000m.  

He was a little slow away and caught wide in the Caulfield Guineas two weeks ago, a run that also suggested he might be wanting further after getting going late.  

Barrier 3 will see him roll straight to the front under Zac Lloyd, and with only 49.5kg’s on his back, he looks a serious threat at a very likable price.  

12. King Colorado (10)  

King Colorado has had plenty of admirers in his last two starts, producing an eye-catching effort in the Golden Rose before sticking to the task nicely in the Guineas.  

He’s set to peak now with three runs under his belt, but the gate does make this tricky for Michael Dee.  

Whether he’s a 2000m horse is also a genuine query.