Trainer Joseph O'Brien admitted he was getting edgy Oct. 23 as a stewards' inquiry into the Ladbrokes Cox Plate (G1) lingered on for over 20 minutes, but it was worth the wait as Teme Valley Racing's State of Rest was allowed to keep the race following a protest from Craig Williams on the runner-up Anamoe.
It was, perhaps, O'Brien's most audacious Australian adventure. He has won two of the last four runnings of the Melbourne Cup (G1), but he didn't have to jump through half as many hoops to win those. This was a reward for patience so it was fitting that he had to wait so long after the race to be officially announced the winner of it.
Almost a year to the day since State of Rest finished fifth in an average Vertem Futurity Trophy (G1) at Doncaster, the son of Starspangledbanner burst through a gap towards two furlongs out and bravely fended off the challenge of Anamoe to land one of Australia's most prestigious races by a short-head under Cork native Johnny Allen.
Verry Elleegant ran third.
But the drama did not end there. Williams immediately signaled his intention to protest upon dismounting from Anamoe for interference suffered aboard the Godolphin-owned runner inside the final furlong and the inquiry began.
REVERSE ANGLE OF THE COX PLATE CLOSING STAGES.— 7HorseRacing 🐎 (@7horseracing) October 23, 2021
It took well over 20 minutes to sort out and O'Brien said he was getting worried the longer it went on.
He said: "It was an anxious wait alright. We were pretty confident that if the inquiry had been anywhere that we were used to racing in that we would have been fine, but it went on for so long that we were starting to get a bit edgy and nervous. I suppose the only thing was that there was nothing I could do from where I was!
"Johnny and Mark (Power) handled it all very well and we're very pleased that they came to what we thought was the right result. Johnny gave the horse the most fantastic ride."
O'Brien heaped praise upon the team who came together to make the journey to Moonee Valley for the $5 million group 1 possible, describing the effort involved as mammoth. The colt's previous start had been a victory in the Saratoga Derby Invitational Stakes (G1T) Aug.7 in New York.
The trainer added: "It's just fantastic. I'm delighted for the owners, the manager Richard Ryan and Jim Coburn. All the credit has to go to Mark Power and MJ Doran, though. The two lads traveled down to Australia and been with the horse for the last number of weeks. Mark Hackett as well, who organized the whole trip.
"It was a mammoth effort from everyone, between all the vets who had to do all his scans and trots up and everything that was required. All the team here at home as well, those who looked after him through his quarantine over here. It was a huge team effort and I'm just so delighted that we managed to pull it off. It was a very special day for all of us."
State of Rest was bred by Dermot Cantillon and Meta Osborne's Tinnakill Bloodstock and their son Jack tried to put the achievement into words.
Cantillon said: "I would always have in my head that the Melbourne Cup is Australia's greatest race and Australia's best race is the Cox Plate—so it is obviously a thrill for us to have bred a winner of it.
"It's a great thrill in particular for my dad, who has always had a special connection with Australia having lifted the Melbourne Cup twice with Vintage Crop and Media Puzzle as racing manager for the Smurfit Family.
"More than anyone I am delighted for him, he has always had this incredible affection for the amazing sport that is Australian racing and for him to win Australia's best race as a breeder is a great testament to a career of hard work."