AUSTRALIA’S home-bred hero Fawkner — with apologies to The Cleaner — will begin his quest for Cox Plate glory in Saturday’s Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) at Flemington.
The grey gelding, who won the 2013 Caulfield Cup before being pipped in last year’s Cox Plate, is in super condition and ready for another stunning season according to the Team Williams stable.
The son of Reset, although an eight-year-old like The Cleaner, has had only 26 career starts for prizemoney of $3,432,751 — half as many as tough Tasmanian The Cleaner who on Saturday won back-to-back Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes.
Fawkner resumed last year after a 25 week break to run the likely Australian Horse of the Year Dissident to a half-head in the Makybe Diva.
He then defeated Criterion in the Group 1 Caulfield Stakes (2000m) before being beaten a short-neck in the Cox Plate by import Adelaide.
He finished his preparation when 10th in the Melbourne Cup.
Although Fawkner has been off the scene for 44 weeks, connections believe he is fit and ready for the first-up assignment.
He was to have started this campaign in the Memsie Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield a fortnight ago, but instead had a casual pre-race day exhibition gallop with Observational, who will contest Saturday’s 1700m Spring In The Season Stakes.
Champion jockey Damien Oliver will partner Fawkner in the Makybe, and Lloyd and Nick Williams expect he will stay with him through to the Cox Plate.
Fawkner will face stiff competition, as expected, in the Makybe Diva which is seen as a key springboard to the Plate and Caulfield and Melbourne Cup.
Nominations include spruik galloper Alpine Eagle, stunning Memsie Stakes winner Boban and stablemate Weary, fourth in the Memsie.
Memsie runner-up Entirely Platinum and third-placed Stratum Star also are likely to nominate.
Annual weight-for-age star Happy Trails, Derby winners Mongolian Khan and Magicool, as well as promising galloper Awesome Rock are also nominated.
Connections also are considering backing up Bagman, runner-up to The Cleaner in the Dato, Foreteller who ran down the track in that race, Kermadec who was brave when runner-up in Saturday’s Chelmsford Stakes at Randwick, as well as Royal Descent who finished third in that Group 2 race.
The Makybe Diva Stakes is likely to cause another major shake-up of the Cox Plate market.
The outright Plate favourite Contributor drifted from $10 to $21 when an indifferent fifth in the Dato on Saturday, while The Cleaner firmed from $51 into $21. Mourinho, who defeated The Cleaner in the Lawrence Stakes at Caulfield, drifted from $41 to $81.
The TAB has revamped the market with international Highland Reel, last start winner of the Secretariat Stakes in the US, and Pornichet, sixth in the Group 2 Chelmsford Stakes at Randwick on Saturday, the $11 equal favourites.
However with a dozen Cox Plate aspirants in the Makybe Diva, markets are likely to change dramatically again — especially if Fawkner, currently on the third line of betting at $15, resumes with a gun run.
COX PLATE (2040m)
Moonee Valley, Saturday October 24
$11 Highland Reel, Pornichet
$15 Criterion, Fawkner, Hartnell
$21 Alpine Eagle, Arod, Contributor, Cold Stream, Happy Trails, The Cleaner, Volkstok’n’barrell
$26 Boban, Complacent, Gailo Chop, Lucia Valentina, Noble Protector, Royal Descent, Vancouver, Winx.