Spring Carnival: Rough trot for the Cox

This premier weight for age race is historically hard on bookies, so Whobegotyou's short price shouldn't turn off punters.

Well I hope readers backed my Caulfield Cup selections each way. My top pick Vigor ran third and my second pick Viewed won the race at 13 to 1. Sportingbet CEO Michael Sullivan steered us into Viewed as the horse the smart money was on.

This Saturday at Moonee Valley we have the running of the Cox Plate, a weight for age race over 2040 meters. Racing experts say the Cox Plate is generally won by the best racehorse in Australia. Past winners include champions Rising Fast, Tulloch, Gunsynd, Surround, Dulcify, Kingston Town, Bonecrusher, Octagonal, Might and Power, Sunline and Makybe Diva.

Our business interview and celebrity tipster this week is John Hartigan, News Ltd chairman. He says circulation and advertising have picked up for the media company’s properties in the months leading up to this spring carnival.

"Of particular note is the growth in volumes of employment advertising which reflects both growth for our mastheads and the recovering economy,” Hartigan said.

"The spring carnival allows our newspapers to maintain strong circulations immediately after the end of the AFL and NRL football finals. The Melbourne Cup editions are among the highest selling of the year.”

He added that the racing carnival produces a spike in News Ltd’s racing sections, including SuperStable, which is the fantasy footy of horse racing.

Hartigan also believes that sport is a topic people will be willing to pay for online, as Rupert Murdoch pushes News Corp in that direction. But the content has to be there.

"Equally, racing provides similar opportunities, provided the quality of the content gives a race fan an edge. Seeing my dear mate Tim Hughes impersonating a journo during the Spring Carnival is further proof that fans will pay for premium content!”

But Australians love their sport, and Hartigan also believes some premium content will always be out of News Ltd's hands.

"I can't ever see the Melbourne Cup not being available on free-to-air television,” Hartigan said, but he asks whether the race should be available across other platforms, including pay-TV service Foxtel.

"The reality is that sports events that aren't available across all platforms in the future will lose some of their appeal and any regime like anti-siphoning that protects one form of media will ultimately affect that media and the sports they cover,” Hartigan said.

He also says punters deserve a better distribution deal from the racing industry. The industry currently adopts a state-based ad hoc approach and consumers are missing out. Hartigan suggests adopting a national approach like the NRL and the AFL.

The News Ltd chief executive says he loves the races, but what about the Cox Plate?

"Love the race and hate the track. Can't remember the last time I won at Moonee Valley. The track should be the exclusive preserve of the ‘red hots’”.

When asked about his favourite Cox Plate moment, Hartigan said it was a tie between Kingston Town’s third win in 1982, when Bill Collins wrote it off during the call, and Sunline’s second victory in 2000 by six lengths in the wet.

But who's going to win this year? "Vision and Power, 2. Whobegotyou and 3. Rock Kingdom. Best bet over the carnival: All American.”

After the interview I spoke to the trainer of All American, David Hayes, who is in Race 4 at Moonee Valley tomorrow. Hayes said: "All American had no luck last start. He is a great each way chance on Saturday.”

My tip for the Cox Plate is the favourite Whobegotyou. He is no fancy odds at $3, but remember a winner is a winner. This horse is unbeaten at four runs at Moonee Valley. He has been set for this race, is in great form, is being ridden by the best jockey in Australia, Damien Oliver and he is the best horse in the country. The Sportingbet $1,000, Opportunity International Australia charity bet will be on Whobegotyou.

My tips, 10. Whobegotyou, 2. Zipping, and 9. Speed Gifted.

Meanwhile, Michael Sullivan of Sportingbet reports, "We have had consistent money for Whobegotyou and strong interest for Zipping. The Cox Plate has a history of not being a great result for bookies so I wouldn't be put off by Whobegotyou’s short price".

A disclosure: I have a runner in Race 2 tomorrow in the Arrow Training Services Stakes, number five Zaleba. I race this filly with a group of owners including Michael Sullivan, as well as Kalgoorlie mining investor Keith Biggs and the Queen’s cousin Lord Sam Vestey. In 2005 we raced a very good filly called Serenade Rose who won (among other group races) The Oaks that year. We have been joined in the ownership by Macquarie Bank’s "lucky Laurie" Macri who is also a part-owner of promising sprinter First Command, who won impressively in the Perri Cutten Sprint last Saturday. Zaleba won at Moonee Valley two weeks ago, leading all the way. In a tougher race this Saturday we expect her to be very competitive and she’s worth backing each way.

Good luck and good punting!

Tim Hughes, executive chairman of Australia's largest marketing and communications company Photon Group Ltd, has been a race horse owner for almost 20 years.

2009 Tatts Cox Plate

1.El Segundo, $15

2. Zipping, $17

3. Vision and Power, $15

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