The Cox Plate will be without an international runner this year after the Luca Cumani-trained Afsare was ruled out of Australia's weight-for-age championship at Moonee Valley on October 27 on Wednesday due to injury.

Racing Victoria stewards said the English galloper - which ran second in the Group One Arlington Million in the United States in August last outing - would immediately return home.

The loss of the Cumani galloper means that while there will be four international runners in Saturday's $2.5 million Caulfield Cup and possibly as many as 10 in the Melbourne Cup, the $3 million Cox Plate will only feature locally-trained gallopers.

With the Peter Moody-trained Manighar, also a former Cumani galloper, now also ruled out of the spring due to injury that leaves just 22 gallopers in line for a start in Australia's greatest weight-for-age race, which has a maximum field of 14 runners.

Included in that 22 are French pair Americain - the 2010 Melbourne Cup winner - and stablemate Shahwardi who was an impressive winner of Saturday's Herbert Power Handicap at Caulfield.

But the Alain de Royer Dupre pair are not expected to run in the Cox Plate and instead will head straight to the Melbourne Cup.

Meanwhile the Moonee Valley Racing Club are at loggerheads with their free-to-air television broadcasters Channel Nine over the starting time of Saturday week's weight-for-age classic.

The race club has again scheduled the race to start at 5.35pm - as it did last year but cash-strapped Channel Nine wants to end their coverage of one of Australia's most important race meetings by 5.30pm to show popular travel show Getaway in the lead-up to their 6pm news.

"All the other race clubs run their big races, like the Caulfield Cup, Golden Slipper and Doncaster Mile well before 5pm," a Channel Nine source told the Herald Sun.

"Every other major race day we do is off air at 5pm.

"Contractually we are bound to the meeting, but there is nothing in the contract about televising after 5pm."

The MVRC are expected to bring the Cox Plate forward to about 4.40pm.

Melbourne Racing Club chairman Mike Symons, speaking on Melbourne racing radio station RSN on Wednesday morning, said Channel Nine - which also broadcasts Caulfield's feature meetings in the Caulfield Guineas and Caulfield Cup each year - had consistently told the race clubs that racing 'doesn't rate'.

"They have told us they prefer to have a proven ratings show (like Getaway) as the lead-in to their news bulletin," he said.

However Symons said free-to-air television coverage remained crucial to the interests of racing, despite the extensive coverage of racing on pay television through both Sky Channel and TVN.

"At the peak viewing time for us such as when the Caulfield Cup is run on Saturday you will have 400,000 to 500,000 viewers and they are a lot of eyeballs on racing and the eyeballs we need to convert into becoming regular racegoers," he said.


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