Reigning Caulfield Cup winner Southern Speed may have drawn double digits for the 2012 Underwood Stakes in Melbourne this weekend but her connections remain confident that even from the gate she can give the favourite Manighar a run for their money.
The Andrew Gluyas and Leon Macdonald trained Southern Image mare got the better of Peter Moody’s autumn star Manighar when the dynamic duo met a fortnight ago in the Group 2 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) at Flemington.
Cox Plate-bound Manighar however was resuming from a spell whereas five-year-old Southern Speed, who only won by a short half-head, had had two earlier runs in Adelaide giving her the fitness edge.
For Saturday’s $400,000 Group 1 Underwood Stakes (1800m), a key lead-up race to the spring majors with all 14 in the field nominated for either the Cox Plate and or the Caulfield Cup next month, it is Manighar who is the punters’ pick.
In barrier 10 with Luke Nolen to ride Manighar is paying $2.25 in the Underwood Stakes odds at bookmaker.com.au while Southern Speed is the $7 third favourite.
Drawn one outside of Manighar Southern Speed is out to prove her last start victory was no fluke as she too heads towards the $3 million Group 1 Tatts Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley on October 27.
Also out wide in the Underwood Stakes barriers for this weekend is the $5.50 second elect Sincero coming off a brilliant first-up victory in the Group 2 Memsie Stakes (1400m) at the start of the month.
Co-trainer Macdonald, who prepares Southern Speed in partnership with his son-in-law Gluyas, believes the barriers won’t play into the finish too much on Saturday over the 1800m at Caulfield.
“Those sort of horses have got the ability to overcome those sort of draws and there’s a good run down to the first corner at Caulfield anyway,” Macdonald said.
“Draws concern you a lot more with ordinary horses because they’ve got to be ridden one way or another, but when you’ve got a turn of foot like these sort of horses and with good jockeys on board, it shouldn’t be a problem.”
Southern Speed will again be ridden by regular rider Craig Williams who reunited with her for the Makybe Diva after Clare Lindop rode the mare for her opening two season starts at Morphettville, and it is experience with her that further boosts Macdonald’s confidence.
“He was desperate to be forward in the Makybe Diva because he was very worried about the lack of pace,” Macdonald said of Williams.
“It depends how we see the race panning out, a horse like Sincero might go forward from the wide gate and we might sit back a length or two.
“Craig will have that all worked out.”
Macdonald was also pleased with the way Southern Speed worked earlier this week when ridden by Williams and said he and the jockey were both pleased with where she was at.
“We can’t fault her, she’s in fine fettle,” he said.
“She didn’t break any records on Tuesday morning, but she wasn’t out to. Her work was very, very strong and Craig was very happy with her.”
While they named the Cox Plate 2012 as Southern Speed’s main spring aim earlier in the month Macdonald said they still hadn’t ruled out a title defense in the $2.65 million Group 1 BMW Caulfield Cup (2400m) on October 20.
“We’ve got to keep our options completely open at this stage,” Macdonald said.
“It’s a hard one to call. Twelve months ago it wasn’t hard to call – it was just the Caulfield Cup – but now she’s qualified for everything.”
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