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Moonee Valley chief happy to consider running 2020 Cox Plate without Europeans

Adelaide (white cap, near): gave Aidan O'Brien his first Group 1 victory in Australia by winning the Cox Plate in 2014
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Moonee Valley CEO Michael Browell says he would happily have an Australian-only Cox Plate run in 2020 but has not given up hope of an international presence.

It comes as Browell confirmed the Cox Plate is locked in for October 24 despite the current global uncertainty.

Covid-19 border restrictions have tightened the movement of thoroughbreds across the world, making it almost impossible to bring horses to Australia.

However, Browell has not given up hope of international runners coming to the race with a July 16 date set to be a crucial date in determining what this year's 100th Cox Plate looks like, because that's when nominations close.

There were 17 international runners among the first acceptances for last year's race – almost double the number at that stage in 2018.

"I wouldn't say it's a disappointment at all," Browell said when asked if a lack of international runners would impact on the race.

Winx: won four consecutive Cox Plates from 2015 to 2018

"The history of the Cox Plate is built on the Australian and New Zealand participation. The internationals are a more recent addition to the race and they've certainly added to the fabric of our great race.

"We need to play with the hand we've been dealt at the moment. This is out of everybody's control and we will make the best of the situation.

"We haven't given up all hope yet of international participation. Clearly, the timeline on that is a little bit closer than the actual running of the race.

"Connections will be looking to firm up their plans in June and July for the second half of the year. We are still continuing to have these conversations with international connections of the horses we'd love to see out here for the Cox Plate this year."

Aidan O'Brien's Magic Wand claimed fourth in the 2019 highlight behind Japanese star mare Lys Gracieux.

The Ballydoyle master also lifted the Cox Plate in 2014 when Adelaide, ridden by Ryan Moore, provided him with a first Group 1 victory in Australia.

Saeed bin Suroor's Benbatl also chased home Winx, four-time winner of the prestigious prize, in 2018, while O'Brien's Highland Reel ran respectably in third behind the wondermare in 2015.

Magic Wand: fourth in last year's Cox Plate

Browell said if international runners were to come to Australia, there would have to be some exemptions or changes to the restrictions in place.

"Once again, listening to the advice that's coming from the authorities, you would almost think that international travel, inbound, would be one of the last things that would be relaxed seeing how the virus is spreading overseas," Browell said.

"Whether or not we could work within the protocols in place . . . as an example, if we were to secure a leading Japanese horse, the connections or the trainers, jockeys, stable hands and the track riders would need to be in Melbourne 14 days before the horse would arrive.

"Then the horse could arrive and we'd have to work out what restrictions would be in place down at Werribee."

Browell has conceded its likely the Cox Plate would be run behind closed doors this year.

Benbatl: second to Winx in the 2018 Ladbrokes Cox Plate

He said attention was now being turned into making the Cox Plate a television spectacle for those watching from home. A night Cox Plate is also an option.

"It's a conversation worth having to see what it would look like if we were to deliver our great race under lights let's say at 8.30pm on a Saturday night," Browell said.

"With no on-course attendance, it would be a made-for-television event and that's where the conversation comes in with Channel Seven and

"We'd need to make sure we can put together a fantastic three to four hours of television that encapsulates the great history over the past 100 years of the Cox Plate."

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We are still continuing to have these conversations with international connections of the horses we'd love to see out here for the Cox Plate this year
E.W. Terms