Cox Plate in sight after Camelot stars in Underwood
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Cox Plate in sight after Camelot stars in Underwood

The Cox Plate won't be going back to Japan this year, but Australia's hopes of keeping it out of the hands of the internationals was bolstered on Saturday with the Underwood Stakes victory of Russian Camelot.

Trainer Danny O'Brien said pre-race that his exciting northern hemisphere-bred three-year-old would need to win the open-age group 1 if he was to head towards the weight-for-age championship of Australasia and on Saturday he justified his place at the top of the Cox Plate market.

For a horse running in a $750,000 open-aged group 1 at just its seventh career start, the win was dominant.

Russian Camelot won the Underwood Stakes with jockey Damien Oliver on Saturday.

Russian Camelot won the Underwood Stakes with jockey Damien Oliver on Saturday. Credit:Getty Images

Jockey Damien Oliver took Russian Camelot to the front, just outside the leader Trap For Fools, and then steered him towards the outside of the track and he raced away from Arcadia Queen on the fence, with Feehan Stakes winner Humidor closing late to split them in second.

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Russian Camelot came into the spring as racing's poster-boy after his clinical South Australian Derby victory, against horses six months his senior including Dalasan, and he returned this spring in style running second in the Makybe Diva Stakes to Fierce Impact a fortnight ago.

The son of Camelot, a future stallion prospect, is now a two-time group 1 winner and will carry the hopes of the locals in next month's Cox Plate - a race won last year by Japanese mare Lys Gracieux. Ocean Park (2012), So You Think (2010) and Northerly (2001, 2002) have completed the Underwood-Cox Plate double in the past 20 years. Oliver rode Northerly in both of those 2001 wins.

Humidor also justified his spot in the Cox Plate field. The Chris Waller-trained gelding had already earned his ticket via the exempt Feehan Stakes but backed up that form with a strong performance over 1800 metres. The Cox Plate holds no fears for the eight-year-old who has twice placed in the race.

O'Brien - who has trained Cox Plate winner Shamus Award, elite juvenile Star Witness and Melbourne Cup winner Vow And Declare - said Russian Camelot might be better than any he's trained.

"I think he's the best horse I've had anything to do with. He's a magnificent colt," O'Brien said.

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"It's really exciting to see him produce performances like this so early in his career. There's been a lot of hype around him, people are expecting things like this so it's really exciting to see him go out there and get it done."

O'Brien said the horse would run next in the Caulfield Stakes in two weeks, which is a fortnight before the Cox Plate. The Underwood victory was Oliver's 120th at the elite level.

"He's an exciting horse and it's a pleasure to be riding him," Oliver said.

"He's always shown us so much. It is a bit of an ask for a horse so early in his career - only seven starts and he's still only a three-year-old taking on these horses.

"He's been a boom horse his whole career and it's nice when they can fulfil it."

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