Kris Lees can remember exactly where he was when Bonecrusher and Our Waverley Star elevated the Cox Plate into racing folklore with their tooth-and-nail battle down the Moonee Valley straight.
It was 1986 and almost 20 years before Lees would begin training his own stable of horses at Newcastle.
“I was watching that at Beaumont Park dog track, which doesn’t even exist now,” Lees said.
“(I remember) right back to Kingston Town. I can go a fair way back. I haven’t missed many.”
Lees came closest to getting his hands on a coveted Cox Plate trophy when brilliant filly Samantha Miss finished third behind Maldivian and Zipping in the 2008 renewal.
On Saturday, he will get another throw at the stumps when Mugatoo takes his place in the elite 14-horse field.
Lees was considering a Caulfield Cup start but after Mugatoo finished runner-up to Mirage Dancer in the Metropolitan Handicap, he became convinced the Cox Plate was the right race.
“I thought the three weeks coming back to 2000 metres was better than two weeks staying at 2400. That was my reasoning,” Lees said.
“There wasn’t a lot in it. They’re both very hard to win.”
Mugatoo has been in Melbourne for two weeks and has galloped twice at Moonee Valley.
Race jockey John Allen has been aboard both times and the reports have been positive.
The six-year-old will be stepping up to weight-for-age level for the first time on Saturday and if the forecast rain arrives, he has solid form on wet ground.
“It’s a big jump from Newcastle Cups and Metrops but I am pretty sure it’s not a classic year,” Lees said.
“There are no Winxs or that filly last year from Japan (Lys Gracieux), but we’ll see.”
Lees will also have Chief Ironside chasing back-to-back wins in the Crystal Mile and says he is on target to defend his crown, provided the track doesn’t become heavy.