Back-to-back Brisbane Premiership winning horseman Robert Heathcote enjoyed a stunning start to the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival at Moonee Valley on Saturday, his two runners both saluting in their respective races including 2011 Manikato Stakes-bound Buffering.
Four-year-old Mossman gelding Buffering made their debut at the Valley in the $150,000 Group 3 Mitty’s McEwen Stakes (1000m) and put in the run of their life to beat home a field full of stars.
Ridden by Brisbane-based hoop Damian Browne, Buffering ($8.50) jumped from barrier eight of nine and did all the work to get up and defeat Group 1 winners Crystal Lily ($3.40) and Atomic Force ($7.50) in a photo finish.
It was a thriller of a McEwen Stakes result Buffering, wearing blinkers for the first time, declared the winner by a mere nose, with Atomic Force was the same length away for third.
“I put the blinkers on him to really sharpen him up and to really get him to get out there and ping,” Heathcote said.
Beaten favourite was fourth-placegetter Kulgrinda ($3F), Peter Moody’s Exceed And Excel mare unable to come within one and three quarter lengths of the brave Buffering.
After the race, Heathcote declared Buffering would next step up to elite level company and contest the $500,000 Group 1 Manikato Stakes (1200m) under the lights at Moonee Valley on September 30.
“We’re excited, he’s a $20,000 horse who has won almost $1 million,” Heathcote said of Buffering whose prize money now sits at $897,400 from 17 starts.
Browne, who was riding Buffering for the first time under race conditions, was impressed with the galloper’s effort and tipped him as a genuine shot at winning the Manikato.
“He’s a really honest type and there is improvement in him,” Browne said.
“Obviously it’s going to be a huge step up in class but this horse deserves his turn up against those good horses.
“Whether he can beat them or not is another thing but he deserves a crack at them.”
History shows the McEwen Stakes as a good Manikato Stakes guide, gun sprinter Hay List taking out the double last spring.
The 2011 Manikato Stakes is set to attract a classy field of sprinters with futures betting on the showdown currently lead by Blue Diamond Stakes – Golden Slipper winner Sepoy who is two-from-two this season.
Prior to the Moonee Valley race results from Saturday, Kulgrinda was second favourite in the Manikato Stakes odds.
She has since drifted out to the $8.50, but still sits above those who finished ahead of her in the McEwen Stakes on Saturday, Crystal Lily ($12) and Buffering ($15).
New second elect to take out the McEwen Stakes at the end of the month is Gai Waterhouse’s glamour mare More Joyous.
Five-time Group 1 winner More Joyous suffered a horrific setback after injuring herself during the running of the Doncaster Mile at Randwick back in April, but the five-year-old showed she back in ace conditions when working between races at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday.
Given a solo workout over 1000 metres with regular rider Nash Rawiller aboard, More Joyous ran a strong 60.56 seconds over the distance with a 600 metre sectional time of 34.4 seconds, a pleasing gallop.
“She was a little big lazy down the back but she really switched on and pleased me up the straight,” Rawiller said.
“She ran right through the line for about a furlong past the post.”
Meanwhile, Heathcote’s other Moonee Valley winner on Saturday was Woorim, the Show A Heart six-year-old saluting in the final event on the card, the $70,000 Become a MVRC Member Handicap (1200m).
Carting a hefty 60.5kg, the last-start Glasshouse Handicap winner handled the weight well, Woorim ($6) finishing a full length clear of the Michael Kent-trained Blackie ($8) while Stanzout ($14) finished off the trifecta a further three quarters of a length away.
Woorim came close to handing Heathcote his maiden Group 1 win when third to Response in the Group 1 Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield last spring, and now looks on track to go two better this year in the $350,000 feature on September 24.
Heathcote, who has always held a high opinion of Woorim, also named the $350,000 Group 1 Toorak Handicap (1600m) at Caulfield on October 8 and possibly even the famous $3 million Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) back at Moonee Valley on October 22 as goals for the progressive galloper.
“We’re even thinking about the Cox Plate for him which I’m sure will make a few people laugh,” Heathcote said.
Cox Plate 2011 betting at Luxbet has Woorim rated a $35 chance.
View the full odds on all the upcoming features this spring carnival open now at Luxbet.
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2011 McEwen Stakes Results
Moonee Valley Race 6 – 10/09/2011
|1||3||BUFFERING||Robert Heathcote||Damian Browne||–||8||58.5kg||$8.50|
|2||7||CRYSTAL LILY||Mathew Ellerton & Simon Zahra||Craig Williams||0.1L||7||56.5kg||$3.40|
|3||2||ATOMIC FORCE||Darren Smith||Damien Oliver||0.2L||9||58.5kg||$7.50|
|4||8||KULGRINDA||Peter G Moody||Luke Nolen||1.45L||1||56.5kg||$3F|
|5||4||FIRST COMMAND||Anthony Freedman||Nicholas Hall||1.55L||4||58.5kg||$15|
|6||1||HAPPY ZERO||Michael, Wayne & John Hawkes||Dwayne Dunn||1.75L||6||58.5kg||$14|
|7||6||SHRAPNEL||Mark Kavanagh||Michael Rodd||4.75L||3||58.5kg||$16|
|8||9||SATIN SHOES||Clarry Conners||Ms Lisa Cropp||4.95L||2||50kg||$16|
|9||5||ZEDI KNIGHT||Brendan McCarthy||Danny Nikolic||8.7L||5||58.5kg||$101|