Having bypassed this year’s Cox Plate due to their tender age, Ron Leemon’s talented three-year-old Manawanui is already preparing for a 2012 Cox Plate assault next Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival and will have a light autumn campaign to keep them fresh for their big grand final.
The Oratorio gelding will be out to add to their already very impressive record during the autumn with races including the $2 million Group 1 Doncaster Handicap (1600m) at Royal Randwick on April 22, 2012 on their agenda.
Warwick Farm-based trainer Leemon has indicated Manwanui would be kept to just four or five starts in the new season to ensure they get to the $3 million Cox Plate (2040m) next October in the best possible order.
“The Doncaster is obviously one of those in the back of my mind,” Leemon said.
“I want to give him maybe five runs and put him away.
“My long term aim has always been the Cox Plate.”
A winner of six of their nine career starts to date, Manawanui has amassed over $1.27 million in prize money thanks to performances including their impressive four and a half length romp in the Group 3 Up & Coming Stakes (1300m) first-up back in August and their gritty final-stride victory over boom favourite Smart Missile in the Group 1 Golden Rose (1400m) on September 10.
Manawanui didn’t finish there either, following the Golden Rose they went on to win the Group 2 Stan Fox Stakes (1500m) a fortnight later before going down a mere nose to overseas-bound Helmet in the Group 1 Caulfield Guineas (1600m) in early October.
Continuing on to add another Group race win to their name in the Moonee Valley Vase (2040m) on Cox Plate Day, Manawanui was last seen finishing three and a half lengths away sixth to Sangster in the Group 1 Victoria Derby (2500m) at Flemington on October 29.
Despite finishing out of the placings in the Derby, Leemon said that after the testing spring they had had and stepping up to the 2500 metres for the first time, Manawanui did an excellent job.
They are now back in work with Leemon still to decide on a resuming run for his stable star.
“I haven’t picked out a set race to start him off with yet,” Leemon said, going on to say he would likely trial Manawanui in late January before a first-up run towards the end of February.
Meanwhile, the horse that ran away with the Victoria Derby win this spring, Trent Busuttin’s New Zealand galloper Sangster is also getting ready to return to the turf.
The Savabeel gelding will target the $1.5 million Group 1 AJC Australian Derby (2400m) at Randwick on April 4 during the Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival next year, but it is the spring Busuttin is really looking forward to.
While the Victoria Derby as a form indicator for the following spring has been questionable over the years, Busuttin is dreaming the dream all trainers have, naming the iconic $6.2 million Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington on the first Tuesday of November as the ultimate goal for his Derby winner.
“The ultimate goal would be the Melbourne Cup,” he said.
“But it’s half the battle to get him into the race as a New Zealand horse.”
Busuttin said Sangster had come back in great condition and would likely head towards the 2012 AJC Derby via the traditional path running in races including the $500,000 Group 1 Randwick Guineas (1600m) on March 17 and the $500,000 Group 1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m) a fortnight later after a first-up run at home.
“He comes back into work today…a week early because he was going so well,” he said.
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