David Hayes doesn’t need to be represented in the W.S. Cox Plate to get excited about the biggest race run at Moonee Valley each year, reports racing.com.

It helps when he does, like this year, when he will saddle Criterion in the $3 million Group 1 contest, but memories of Cox Plates past are generally enough to bring a smile to his face.

Hayes’s first Group 1 success came in the Cox Plate, via Better Loosen Up, while Fields Of Omagh’s second success was possibly the most sentimental feature-race win of his decorated career.

It took to six the number of Cox Plates won by the Lindsay Park operation, which was started by David’s father Colin, and Hayes said it was drilled into him from a young age what a great race the Cox Plate was.

“I love it,” Hayes said. “It was Dad’s favourite race and he used to love it because, if you won it, it meant you had the best weight-for-age horse and you could look forward to a good 12 months.

“If Criterion is lucky enough to win, Lindsay Park will have won it seven times, so it’s been a good race for us as well.”

Better Loosen Up provided David with a dream transition into the head trainer’s role at Lindsay Park when he defeated Caulfield Cup winner Sydeston and Golden Slipper hero Canny Lad to win the 1990 edition.

That was David’s first year of training and came 12 months after Colin, who won back-to-back Cox Plates with So Called and Dulcify (1978/79), claimed the race for a third time with Almaarad.

“It was my first Group 1 winner and it was significant because Dad announced his retirement the year before and won the Cox Plate as his last one,” Hayes said.

“I just really wanted to win it as my first, given it was his last, and pass the baton.

“Having not won a Group 1 previously, it just meant so much to me. One, to win a Cox Plate, but also to win the Cox Plate with a superstar. He’s still my favourite horse.”

Better Loosen Up, now 30, will be at Moonee Valley on Saturday to lead out the Cox Plate field on what is the 25th anniversary of his win in the race.

The following day Living Legends, where Better Loosen Up now resides, will remember the occasion as part of its Legendary Wine & Food Festival.