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Cox Plate may be put on hold as virus threatens centenary celebration

The centenary Cox Plate could be postponed until next year
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The Cox Plate is the latest big international contest to be threatened by the coronavirus outbreak, with the organiser's chief executive warning he would rather call it off than run it behind closed doors.

The A$5 million contest, Australia's richest weight-for-age event and a contest Aidan O'Brien won with Adelaide in 2014, is not scheduled to be staged until late October.

But the race is due to be run for the 100th time this year and huge celebrations were planned at Moonee Valley in Melbourne to mark the occasion.

Racing is taking place without spectators in Australia and Michael Browell, chief executive officer of the Moonee Valley Racing Club, said on the Racing Pulse podcast: "One of the options that we'll have to consider is putting a line through the Cox Plate this year if everything isn't back in normal working conditions, then postpone it until October 2021. 

"There are definitely a permutation of options available to us. We're not going to jump the gun – we've got a bit of time before we need to be making those calls.

"This is a personal view but, we're flying people in from around the world for this so even with the borders being closed down it would be difficult to be running a Cox Plate this year."

Australian super mare Winx made her reputation with four straight wins in the Cox Plate from 2015 to 2018 and the roll of honour features most of the country's top names, including the legendary Phar Lap who scored in 1930 and 1931.

"I'm not going to pre-empt what the decision might be, we've got a little bit of time up our sleeve but we want the 100th running of the WS Cox Plate to be a massive celebration," Browell said.

"We want 35,000 people on course, we want to have all the past champions, all the past heroes there to celebrate it with us and if that means we need to postpone it or put a line through 2020 and come back and do it in 2021 we'll do that."

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My least preferred model would be to be running the Cox Plate with no-one on course. It's 100 years and we've got a massive celebration planned
E.W. Terms