The Group 1 Ladbrokes Manikato Stakes kicks off Cox Plate weekend at Moonee Valley this Friday, October 25th. The $1million feature over 1200m has a field of 14 set to line up and we have a full runner-by-runner preview of the race below!
Had a very sound preparation leading into The Everest last start, where he failed to make an impression on the wet ground. Back to firmer ground suits him here, as does remaining at 1200m. He holds a victory to his name at this track and distance and his run behind Viddora in the Moir Stakes two starts ago was good enough to suggest he can be very competitive in this if he’s bounced off last start OK. Awkward draw but should settle in the back half of the field with cover and be charging home late.
Obviously super-talented on his day but I just feel it’s a weird prep for this race. Last seen running 4th behind Grunt in the G1 Makybe Diva Stakes over 1600m at Flemington. Since freshened up and has had five weeks between runs with a trial in between. Then there is the fact he’s drawn barrier 12 in his first look around Moonee Valley. On his best form he’d obviously be very hard to beat here but I just think there’s enough queries against him. At $5.00 he’s probably at a price where you can have something on at least as a saver bet, but I haven’t got him on top.
Good to see him back but he’s first up tonight from over 11 months off the track and that has to be a query as a 7YO now. With that said, his first up record is simply outstanding, with five wins and a 2nd from seven starts. The one time he didn’t place first up was last preparation when he flashed home to finish 4th behind She Will Reign in the Moir Stakes. Tactics with him will be interesting. He has the tactical speed to be right up on speed (and he’ll likely need to be from barrier 1) but will they want to gas him and use him up early after such a long time out? Certainly at his best he’d be a leading chance but he’s another with a few vulnerabilities.
Continues to run well this preparation in easier company and hasn’t had a great deal go his way in recent starts. Undefeated from two starts at this track and distance and gets a jockey change today with Mark Zahra replacing the injured Brad Rawiller. Should be able to get into the three-wide running line from barrier 8 but the issue is whether he’s up to this kind of grade. He’s gone close on two occasions at Group 1 level but he’s now had eight starts in the grade for zero wins. Not hopeless though.
Adds some speed into the race and ran well behind Pierata in Sydney last start, but that was in his favourite conditions on a bog track. Didn’t get much luck in the Moir Stakes two starts back but he’s not up to this grade, especially not on firm ground.
The first of four Aiden O’Brien trained runners in the race. Sound on his Australian debut when finishing 2nd, beaten 0.75L by Ball Of Muscle in the G2 Schillaci Stakes. Did run 2nd second up last preparation but he’s had four starts in Group 1 company back in the UK and hasn’t featured in the placings on any occasion. Settled midfield first up so it’s likely they’ll ride him cold from barrier 14 here, especially with one of his stablemates likely to go forward.
The second of the Aiden O’Brien brigade. Beaten 8L on his Australian debut in the same race as Spirit Of Valour (Schillaci Stakes) after missing the start by 5L. Drawn well in barrier 5 but will need to jump much cleaner today if he’s any hope of being competitive. Has had nine starts at Group 1 level in the UK and has never placed. Hard to recommend.
Has been the recipient of some market support early in betting and he’s my top pick in the race at $11. He’s a three-time Group 1 winner back in the UK and a four-time winner over this distance. Before coming to Australia, he won the G1 July Cup at Newmarket, where he defeated the smart Brando (Redkirk Warrior was also down the field). Completely forget he went around in The Everest. He was slow away and settled further back than many anticipated and more than anything, he just doesn’t go on heavy ground. He’s had two starts on heavy ground for 15L and 10L defeats. Think he’ll be much better suited today back on firm ground and with the run under his belt. Well drawn, should settle closer to the speed and Ryan Moore is back in town for the ride. Looks a solid each way bet.
Dual Group 1 placegetter back in the UK, including a 3rd placing to US Navy Flag at big odds in the July Cup. He also ran in the Schillaci Stakes with stablemates Spirit Of Valour and Intelligence Cross and much like them, was comfortably beaten. Settled back in the field on that occasion so from barrier 11 here we can probably expect him to be back there once again. All three career victories have come over this distance and I expect him to improve second up here, but he’d need to.
Right in this. Resumed with a terrific run to challenge Nature Strip in a race that broke the track record for the 1000m here at the Valley. The form out of that race is strong through the likes of Shoals. Followed that with a luckless run behind Viddora in the Moir Stakes, where she settled midfield and was held up for the majority of the straight. Four weeks between runs and now up to 1200m third up with a nice draw in barrier 4. If she jumps cleaner, expect to see her much closer to the speed, just as she was first up. Worth noting she won her only prior start over this track and distance and although she’s had four starts at G1 level for no placings, I think she’s probably come back better than ever this prep. Will be having something on at $7.00.
Has been around the mark in most starts this preparation. She’s got a great record at this track with two wins and two 2nd’s from five starts. The only time she missed a place here was when she was beaten 1.1L by Land Of Plenty three starts back. That form has since been franked with Land Of Plenty going on to be successful at Group 1 level. I don’t think she’s quite up to winning a WFA Group 1 sprint but she does seem to go very well here and could be a sneak place chance at $34.
Was an eye-catching run first up behind Viddora and Brave Smash in the Moir Stakes. She drew barrier 1 and settled a long way back in the field before coming wide on the turn and charging home to be beaten 2.5L. She’ll get a long way back from barrier 13 here and will have to come wide once again, but after that first up run you wouldn’t completely rule her out here, especially as 1200m is her best distance (she’s never won over 1000m but has three wins at 1200m). Knockout hope at $35.
Another pace angle in the race. Was all set to run in The Everest but pulled up lame last start and was slow to recover. Wasn’t going well enough anyway. If she produced the same kind of form that saw her run Merchant Navy to a nose in last year’s Coolmoore Stud Stakes, then she’d run a very bold race here but I just don’t think she’s come back as good as many were thinking. Hard to be confident about her given her last start and the issues she pulled up with. Price looks about right.
Another one that will be vying for the lead. She won very comfortably last start to make it two wins from three starts this prep but I think she’s poisonous odds here. Couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw her at $5.00 ($4.40 in some places). She has been beating significantly inferior horses to what she comes up against here and even though she gets in with just 51kg, she is going to have to deal with plenty of competition for the lead. No doubt she’s a very talented filly but she steps up from Group 3 company against her own age to open weight-for-age company here. I never like backing three-year-old’s in these sorts of races and that won’t be changing here.
Very happy to take on the current favourite Sunlight. US Navy Flag appeals as a great each way bet at $11, while I’m also giving strong chances to Brave Smash and Houtzen. Kementari has a few queries for mine but his best would probably see him go very close to winning this. Voodoo Lad and Tulip place chances, Spright the knockout hope.
1st US NAVY FLAG ($11.00)
2nd HOUTZEN ($7.00)
3rd BRAVE SMASH ($10.00)
4th KEMENTARI ($5.00)
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