Stephen McKee knows what it’s like to make an impression at Moonee Valley on Cox Plate day. The Auckland trainer and his late father Trevor twice produced champion mare Sunline for memorable wins in the Cox Plate, going back to 1999 and 2000.
While McKee has attended the day on several occasions since, he will saddle Consensus in the Group 3 Powerflo Solutions Stakes (1600m) at The Valley on Saturday as his first runner on the day since Sunline. “It will bring back some pretty good memories,” McKee said. “I’ve been back a few times and I had Passing Shot run at the meeting a few years ago, though that was on the Friday night. It will be great having a runner on Cox Plate day, even though I would have preferred that we didn’t have to wait till the last.”
McKee has given Consensus two runs in New Zealand and two runs in Melbourne leading into Saturday’s mares handicap and believes her last-start sixth in the Group 3 Ladies’ Day Vase (1600m) at Caulfield has her in near peak condition. “We’ve kept her up to the mark in her work since that race too. She had a nice hitout on Tuesday morning. She’s now got those two 1600m races over here under her belt and she’s going into Saturday quite a bit fitter than she has been,” he said.
“Her run in the Ladies’ Day Vase was all right. She led by default and that’s not an ideal situation for her. She is better just in behind and she didn’t just let down as well as she can. “But she’s still only finished half a length behind Rondinella, who ran second, and she was always going to improve out of that run. We’ve put the blinkers on her to keep her sharp for that last 200m and she’s ready to go now.”
Consensus will carry the joint topweight of 59kg with the Chris Waller-trained Girl Tuesday, with only one other runner in the field of 13 not carrying the 54kg minimum. “We’d like to have run this at level weights,” McKee quipped. “But she’s giving them weight for a reason. We had considered the Crystal Mile for her but there were 17 horses rated over 100 in there so quite a bit of depth. This looks a good race but we’d have preferred it at set weights.”
A winner of 11 of her 60 starts, including the Group 1 Zabeel Classic (2000m) at Ellerslie and Group 2 Sunline Stakes (1600m) at Moonee Valley, the eight-year-old mare Consensus has been scanned in foal to Haunui Farm stallion Iffraaj, with a second scan scheduled for next week. “We’ll press on to the Matriarch Stakes with Consensus over 2000m at weight-for-age at Flemington on the last day of the carnival and that will suit her as well. “Then we will look at getting her home for the Zabeel Classic (Group 1, 2000m) or maybe even the Captain Cook (Group 1, 1600m) again.”
Consensus finished second in the 2017 Captain Cook Stakes.