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By John Schreck | Friday, October 27, 2017

John Schreck, a former Chief Steward in both Sydney and Hong Kong, has seen both the colourful and the dark sides of racing. His wealth of experience and his deep knowledge of racing matters across the board is unquestioned and the reputation he built as a racing ‘lawman’ remains firmly entrenched in racing’s history. Schreck’s personal blog, ‘From the Sheriff’s Desk', appears exclusively on HRO.

The W S Cox Plate is one of Australia’s great races and the 2017 edition of the race this Saturday ... with Winx looking to emulate Kingston Town by landed her third Cox Plate win ... is set to add another significant chapter to the race’s rich history.

Moonee Valley is a ‘different’ racetrack. Johnny Longden, the famous American jockey once said it was the only racecourse he had ever seen that was built on a square ... and it is. It is kind of four little straights, but good horses have never shied away from it and they have been able to get around it well.

Whether it is the camber of the track or what, I don’t know, but good horses really always race well there.

Moonee Valley is also kind of a velodrome. The crowd is very close to the track. Horses are seldom very far away. They walk through the tunnel when they come out onto the track and that not only helps create atmosphere but it also makes it an unusual racetrack, in a very positive sense, from a spectator’s point of view.

All in all, racing at Moonee Valley is a unique racing experience and one that has enormous tradition.


The list of horses of real quality who have won the race is quite amazing and most racing enthusiasts will have a favourite amongst them.

The best that I’ve seen was Kingston Town and the year that Dulcify won it was just mind-blowing. He just dominated the race ... and you could go on ... Makybe Diva, Might And Power, Northerly, Saintly, So You Think, Sunline, Super Impose ... to mention a few.

Or, if you want to go further back ... Bonecrusher (in that classic battle with Waverley Star), Strawberry Road, Tulloch and Phar Lap. Each of these names, and many others, have added to the stature of the race and helped it to become acknowledged as the Weight For Age Championship of Australia.

Such is the stage onto which Winx will step on Saturday afternoon.


It has been thirty-five years since Kingston Town completed his hat trick of Cox Plate wins (the only horse currently to have done so).

That win in 1982 is remembered for the hat trick and for Bill Collins’ race-call in which he said halfway through the running that ... “Kingston Town can’t win.”

Make no mistake, Bill Collins was a wonderful race caller ... some say the best ever.

He wasn’t shy to have a comment during the run because he was a good gambler and he would see the horses in the run through the eyes of a gambler as well as a race-broadcaster, so his calls were often very different from those who didn’t have a monetary interest in the race which I thought added a lot of colour to his calls.

Interestingly, unlike Winx where Hugh Bowman had glued himself to the saddle, Kingston Town had three different jockeys in his three Cox Plate successes ... Malcolm Johnston, Ron Quinton and Peter Cook. All were obviously wonderful jockeys.

As far as the Cox Plate rides go I would have to make special mention of Brent Thompson. His ride on Dulcify does stick in my mind. Years ago Jack Purtell started off the trend of taking off by the school ... as they say ... and that is what Thompson did on Dulcify and he just blew them away.

Also, to his enormous credit, Thompson is the only jockey to win three Cox Plate’s in a row. In fact he won four in five years from 1975 to 1979. That’s quite an achievement!


Of course it is not only horses and jockeys who have helped take the status of the Cox Plate to such great heights. The winning trainer’s ranks also include the best of the best.

During my time the great trainers were Messrs Smith, C S Hayes and J B Cummings. They were all wonderful with race horses which they trained in different ways.

Mr Smith, who trained Kingston Town to that special hat trick of wins, used to feed the horses hard and race the horses hard. His horses were always towards the front, out of trouble and were hard enough to go on and win.

C S Hayes was a little bit different. His horses always had a bit more meat about them and, of course, Mr Cummings was different again because he took a lot of time with his horses. He didn’t win many races with young horses but he went on to win many Melbourne Cups.

All different but they enjoyed the common denominator of success ... including their significant contribution to the Cox Plate history.

C S Hayes won back to back Cox Plate’s with So Called and Dulcify in the two years prior to Kingston Town’s hat trick while J B Cummings twice won two Cox Plate’s in a row ... firstly with Saintly and Dane Ripper and then with So You Think who, you will remember, was denied a chance of a third victory when he was sold to overseas interests.

Other trainers who have trained successive Cox Plate winners in the last fifty years include Fred Kersley (Northerly), Trevor McKee (Sunline), Graeme Heagney (Tobin Bronze) and, of course Chris Waller who looks set to go one better with Winx on Saturday.


It is going to be a magnificent day of racing on Saturday. If anything, the only sad part about it is that there are only eight runners in the Cox Plate this year.

In the recent past we had a situation where Black Caviar was chasing away the opposition to a degree and now we seem to have the same thing happening with Winx.

This is a new development. For all of the names of champion horses mentioned previously, there wasn’t a horse that dominated the scene as Black Caviar and Winx has done.

Horses like Kingston Town and Tulloch and the like, people thought they were beatable and took them on. Whether there are not enough good horses about these days ... I don’t know ... but the obvious view, for example on Saturday, is that Winx will win barring something really dramatic or exceptional bad luck.

There is nobody who thinks any of her rivals is good enough to beat her and therefore many possible contenders have backed off.

Not that there is anything wrong with $440 000 for second place or $220 000 for third ... but you also don’t want to break you horse’s heart so there is a fine call to be made there.


I have said many times over the years and people have laughed at me ... nearly in my face ... that it is horses and not betting that makes racing.

Winx is a classic example of that. Watching people at the breakfast gallops yesterday morning and seeing their reaction to Winx drove home the point to me that ... to say that horses don’t make the sport is just sacrilegious.

It is just stupid.

Horses make the sport and good horses clearly, clearly bring in the people.

Gambling, of course, is an important part of the industry, but the horses and their drawing power is the major factor.

People should, from time to time, just sit quietly or stand and reflect on the important part the horse has played in the sport over our lives. The horse is so often easily dismissed on big days when people just want to be able to dress up and say they had a big social day out at the races without any mention of the horse.

That won’t happen with Winx in town on Saturday, but it would be nice if more people reflected on the importance of the star of the show at more race meetings ... and that, of course, is the horse!


There is plenty happening behind the scenes in racing at the moment.

Danny Nikolic has an application before Racing NSW to be licensed as a jockey. James McDonald has his suspension matter before the Supreme Court in New South Wales and in Victoria the cobalt matters is before the courts ... so in the next little while there will be some interesting decisions handed down with significant effects across the sport.

Those are stories for another time.

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