Reigning Golden Rose winner Manawanui may have beaten home just one other runner in their soft Warwick Farm trial this morning, but their trainer Ron Leemon is still looking forward to their 2012 return.
The Oratorio gelding, a winner of six of their nine career starts to date including the Group 1 Golden Rose last September, had their first official hitout on Tuesday morning racing over 800 metres on the course proper at Warwick Farm.
They did little of note with Glyn Schofield bringing them in at the tail end of the field, Gai Waterhouse’s Montana Flyer winning in a time of 48.00 on the Slow rated track, but Leemon expected as much with Manawanui still a long way off his racing weight.
“All he was doing was having his first gallop today, it was just a fitness thing, he’s still very fat,” Leemon explained.
“It was a hot trial with a lot of speed horses in it.
“His major trial will be on the seventh of February.”
Last seen finishing three and a half lengths away sixth to Sangster in the Group 1 Victoria Derby (2500m) at Flemington on October 29, Manawanu is now fighting to get fit ahead of the Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival.
Leemon, who has knocked back offers exceeding $2 million to take his stable ace off his hands, admitted Manawanui was a little behind where he would ideally like him to be with the autumn fast approaching, but that their class should see them come on quickly from here on.
“I am a little bit behind where I would have liked to have been at this stage,” he said.
“There is nothing wrong with the horse, he is fit and sound, it is just the gap between the carnivals.
“I gave him a five week spell (following the Victoria Derby) and that’s all I could afford because he needs to get racing under his belt.
“You don’t realise how quickly the autumn carnival swings around until you actually have a horse that you have to get ready for it.
“He has still got a little more developing to do but that will come in time.
“If I had given him another three or four weeks in the paddock he would be there now.
“To the eye he looks thicker, he has filled out a little.”
Having already amassed over $1.27 million in prize money to date, Manawanui is set to target the $500,000 Group 1 Randwick Guineas (1600m) at Royal Randwick on March 17.
They will head into the race via the $175,000 Group 2 Royal Sovereign Stakes (1200m) at Warwick Farm on February 18 and then the $200,000 Group 2 Hobartville Stakes (1400m) at Rosehill on March 3.
How they go over the mile against a field of their fellow three-year-olds will then guide whether Leemon races them against older rivals for the first time in the $400,000 Group 1 George Ryder Stakes (1500m) at Rosehill on Golden Slipper Day, April 7, and then possibly even the $2 million Group 1 Doncaster Handicap (1600m) back at Randwick on April 21.
“At this stage the main aim will be the Randwick Guineas, the path there will include the Royal Sovereign and Hobartville and then we will see how he goes in the Guineas,” Leemon said.
“From there we have the option of going to the George Ryder and then Doncaster.”
Of course, the pipe dream of 2012 for Leemon is to get Manawanui into the $3 million Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley in October during the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival.
Bypassing the lucrative weight-for-age feature last year due to their tender age, Leemon hopes that by keeping Manawanui to the mile during the autumn he may be able to stretch him to the Cox Plate distance in the spring.
“We would love to get to a Cox Plate with him and I want to ensure he gets a decent spell after the autumn,” Leemon said.
Follow Manawanui throughout the autumn right here at Races.com.au.
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