Waller’s love affair with Cox Plate

Chris Waller will always remember THAT feeling.

The one that hit him when jockey Hugh Bowman had just stolen a run along the fence and gone for home on his star mare Winx.

It was Cox Plate day, 2015 and the roar of The Valley was deafening.

“When she shot clear at the 250m mark the first time, I thought ‘holy hell, how special is this?’” Waller recalls.

“When they come up the straight solo like she did, it is a special feeling and once you have those sort of feelings, like in anything in life, you want to experience it again.

Winx races clear to win Chris Waller’s first Cox Plate. Picture:Wayne LudbeySource:News Corp Australia

“It’s not a race you expect to win, you hope for it and to win it with a very special horse like Winx made it even more memorable.”

Of course the history books now show that Waller and Bowman didn’t just win it once with Winx – they dominated the race for four consecutive years.

It’s why the master trainer will always hold his first ‘major’ in such high regard, particularly as The Valley prepares to host the 100th edition of nation’s premiere weight-for-age race this weekend.

Fittingly Waller will saddle up two runners in the Group 1 test with the classy Kolding joined by the horse that came closest to conquering Winx over the 2040m – Humidor.

The master trainer has had the latter for just three starts but has done a remarkable job reinvigorating the grand campaigner in the twilight of his career.

Hugh Bowman and Winx fight off Humidor in the 2017 Cox Plate. Photo: Vince Caligiuri/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

Humidor looked to be heading for retirement when connections sent him to Waller from Lindsey Smith.

In three runs since the stable the son of Teofilo has won a Group 2 Feehan Stakes before placing in the Group 1 Underwood Stakes and Caulfield Stakes.

“He has given us a scare that day with Winx and has provided us with some good moments since in the last couple of starts with some great form,” Waller said.

“It will be hard for him to win. He has to go to a new level but he’s been at this level before.

“His work was enthusiastic on Tuesday and the horse is really well despite drawing a bit awkward out in barrier 14.

“It’s a Cox Plate so there will be plenty of pressure on so hopefully he’s running on.”

Humidor is rated a $21 outsider with TAB.com.au while Kolding is $12 following a stellar lead up back in Sydney.

James McDonald guided Kolding to victory in the Hill Stakes. Photo: Mark Evans/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

The five-year-old added a second Group 1 to his resume when capturing the George Main Stakes at Randwick before Waller bypassed the Epsom Handicap to get 2000m run under Kolding’s belt in the Group 2 Hill Stakes.

It proved to be a winning decision with Kolding thriving in the Hill Stakes but the Cox Plate will provide a sterner challenge against some of the nation’s best middle distance horses.

““His dad Ocean Park won it and he beat a couple of handy horses over the 2000m last start so all you can do is win,” Waller said.

“His draw is not perfect either and he is not going to get the run of the race but his form is good.

“The only query I have is how he goes left-handed.”

Kolding has battled the Melbourne way of going in both of his previous starts at Caulfield earlier this year and Waller admits it is a challenge.

Kolding (left) working at Breakfast With The Best trackwork. Photo: Pat Scala/Racing Photos via Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

“He handled Moonee Valley better than Caulfield but he is still not quite as sharp the Melbourne way of going,” he said.

“He has been terrific his last three starts.

“Where else do you go with a multiple Group 1 horse?

“His last two wins have been at weight-for-age so let’s hope he gets the right run.”

James McDonald rides Kolding while Craig Williams pilots Humidor.

The difficulties surrounding travel during the coronavirus pandemic will ensure Waller isn’t on track to deliver final instructions in 2020 with the trainer set to watch the race on a TV screen at Randwick instead.

“I have said in the past I have seen plenty of Cox Plates at Kembla Grange or Newcastle when I wasn’t where I am now,” Waller says.

“We just have to keep going the best we can.”

Originally published asThe moment Waller fell in love with the Cox Plate

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