Irishman Joseph O’Brien has won Australasia’s most prized weight-for-age championship, the G1 Cox Plate with State Of Rest.

But it wasn’t without drama after the connections of second-placed Anamoe lodged a protest after the first two horses made contact in the Moonee Valley straight, before Anamoe fell short by a half-head.

After jumping off the colt, Anamoe’s jockey Craig Williams said he had no option but to lodge a protest against the lightly-raced import State Of Rest, who drifted towards the rail 100 metres shy of the post.

But the stewards dismissed the challenge.

The victory proved a career highlight for Johnny Allen, who came over from Ireland as a jumps jockey and has held his own in Victoria’s competitive jockey ranks.

State Of Rest had come to Australia with just eight starts to his name, but his lead-up run – a win in America in the Saratoga Derby – showed he had a turn of foot capable of taking on Australia’s weight-for-age contenders.

Champion mare Verry Elleegant flashed from the back to get third, beaten a length, while Mo’unga got fourth for Annabel Neasham, whose star galloper Zaaki was sensationally scratched on the morning of the race due to an elevated temperature.

Three-year-old Captivant led up the Cox Plate field with 49.5kg, with Kiwi galloper Callsign Mav settling off the colt’s back. The field stayed clear of the fence, after rain throughout the meeting left the rail chopped up.

Allen sat back sixth in the field of eight, but rode the horse for luck. He travelled to the school, where those outsiders ahead of him were battling to take him any further, and a gap opened allowing State Of Rest to pounce on the lead.

But Anamoe was on his back, following the European raider wherever he went. When they turned into the straight, Williams took Anamoe to State Of Rest’s inside, but was slightly impacted as the O’Brien colt laid in under pressure.

But the pair had clear running over the final 100 metres and Anamoe couldn’t get past him, with stewards determining any contact between the horses did not cost Anamoe the win.

The protest was reviewed in the stewards’ room for about half an hour, before the protest was ultimately dismissed.  – The Age.

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