TRAINER Joseph O’Brien added a Cox Plate to his two Melbourne Cup wins on Saturday when State Of Rest prevailed by a short-head in the Group 1 ‘major’ at Moonee Valley.

Corkman Johnny Allen, who has been based in Australia for 10 years, was on board State Of Rest and gave the three-year-old a great ride, getting a split between the leaders on the final turn and grabbing the lead.

The Godolphin-owned Anamoe challenged strongly in the closing stages and there was contact between the two leaders but State Of Rest held on to win by a narrow margin.

Craig Williams, who rode the runner-up, immediately lodged a protest against the winner for causing interference and the stewards took 25 minutes to deliberate before confirming that State Of Rest would keep the race.

Mark Power, representing the winning trainer, said: “That was not good for the heart. I am trembling like a leaf. Johnny was brilliant on him. He is as strong as an ox. This is a race Joseph has had on his agenda for a long time, ever since he watched Adelaide [trained by Aidan O’Brien] win it [in 2014]. I am over the moon.”

Johnny Allen said: “I knew crossing the line I had given [Anamoe] a bump. Thank God we got the win. A great job by Mark and the team.There were some anxious moments in the stewards’ room. Craig is a good talker and there were so many ‘Paddies’ in there, I wasn’t sure if the stewards could understand us!

“The race panned out pretty well. When the gap appeared I asked him to quickly improve before it closed and he might have got there too soon. I was surprised the other horse got to me as quick as he did. It was a ding-dong battle but my horse rallied when challenged and luckily got his head down on the line. To win the race on an Irish horse makes it more special. I worked for [Joseph’s grandfather] Joe Crowley for many years and he will have a smile on his face looking down on us now.”

Despite winning one of the world’s biggest races, State Of Rest is virtually unknown to most Irish racing fans. Due to Covid-19, there were no racegoers present to see any of his four two-year-old starts in Ireland last year, which included a debut maiden win at Fairyhouse.

The son of Starspangledbanner ended his juvenile campaign with two starts in Doncaster – finishing third in the Group 2 Champagne Stakes and fifth [behind Mac Swiney] in the Group 1 Futurity Trophy.

State Of Rest made his 2021 debut in a listed race at the Curragh on Irish Derby day, finishing an eyecatching third behind Fourhometwo and Khartoum.

From there, O’Brien decided to target the Grade 1 Saratoga Derby in August with State Of Rest and, with Johnny Velazquez in the saddle, they won by a length at odds of over 20/1.

The horse did not run again before the Cox Plate, for which he was a 13/2 chance. His odds contracted sharply following the early morning withdrawal of 2/1 favourite Zaaki due to a high temperature. This bombshell followed the death last week of last year’s winner Sir Dragonet and the withdrawal on Friday of the fancied Gold Trip.

Future plans for State Of Rest are not yet clear but commentators have suggested that the Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes at Flemington on the Saturday after the Melbourne Cup could be a logical target. The Aidan O’Brien-trained Magic Wand won the Mackinnon in 2019 having finished fourth in the Cox Plate.

State Of Rest was bred by Dermot and Meta Cantillon at their Tinnakill House farm in Mountrath, Co Laois. They sold him for 45,000gns a a foal in Tattersalls in Newmarket.

A year later he was returned to the same sales ring by the Player family's Whatton Manor Stud and he was bought by Joseph O'Brien and agent Aidan O'Ryan for 62,000gns.

He runs in the colours of Teme Valley Racing who had a Group 1 winner on this weekend a year ago with the Mark Johnston-trained Gear Up.