This Friday night Darley Australia’s Peter Snowden will vie for his second successive Manikato Stakes win with the untapped Mental looking to follow in the footsteps of their former star stablemate Sepoy but they will have to face an odds-on favourite in Buffering.
Whetting the Melbourne punters’ appetites for Saturday’s Cox Plate showdown, the $750,000 Group 1 Manikato Stakes (1200m) set to run under the lights at Moonee Valley at 9:15pm (AEST) tomorrow evening.
Odds-on favourite in the Manikato Stakes odds at bookmaker.com.au is the Rob Heathcote-trained Buffering, fourth to Sepoy in the classic 12 months ago.
With the sprint freaks all on the sidelines this spring however Buffering is looking primed to finally score that well deserved Group 1 trophy and they are currently paying $1.95 to do just that in the Manikato.
One horse that will be there looking to stop the crowd favourite will be Lonhro gelding Mental set to make their four-year-old debut in the race on the back of a four and a half month spell.
A winner of six of their 10 career starts to date Mental was last seen putting a minimum three lengths on their rivals in the Listed Daybreak Lover Stakes (1600m) at Eagle Farm on June 9 and this will be their final season racing in Australia.
Friday will see them drop back to 1200m as they make the Moonee Valley debut from barrier nine with Kerrin McEvoy, who guided Sepoy to victory in last year’s Manikato, in the saddle.
It won’t be their first time in Melbourne however as Mental ran a close fourth in a Listed Flemington feature over 1400m last Melbourne Cup Day.
While it is a big step up in class, connections are confident that Mental will be a competitive rival for Buffering especially as they resume.
“He’s a very talented sprinter and he’s dynamite fresh,” Darley’s Melbourne stable foreman Paul Snowden said.
“We want to have him pretty spot-on first-up.
“It’s a nice line-up but we believe he’s a horse that will handle Moonee Valley.
“He’ll probably be midfield somewhere in the run and have to come home in some pretty quick fractions. But it looks like there could be some nice tempo in the race.
“Buffering is the benchmark for everything at the moment.
“His two wins this time in have been great. We just need a bit of luck on the night.”
Mental is one of the latest in a seven-horse contingent heading overseas to join Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin team at the end of the spring and a strong performance in the Manikato would go a long way in showing their Group 1 potential.
If they race well on Friday night then there is a chance too that Mental, like the bulk of the Manikato Stakes field, will progress onto the $1 million Group 1 Patianck Farm Classic (1200m) at Flemington on the final day of the Melbourne Cup Carnival, Emirates Stakes Day, Saturday November 10.
“There’s not a lot of options for sprinters,” Snowden said.
“There’s this race and maybe the Patinack Farm Classic if he runs well, so you’ve got to be right on your mark and hopefully get the runs on the board early.
“I just want to see him break through and hopefully get that Group One win (before going overseas).
“He’s got a very good record and doesn’t have to improve much to compete against that level.”
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