After spending the past 11 months sidelined the Ron Leemon-trained Group 1 winner Manawanui has been accepted to return to racing in the Bill Ritchie Handicap 2014 at Randwick this Saturday.
The six-year-old Oratorio gelding is one of just seven hopefuls set to face off in the $125,000 Group 3 Bill Ritchie Handicap (1400m) on George Main Stakes Day in Sydney on the weekend.
Winner of the 2011 Golden Rose during a stellar three-year-old campaign three years ago, injury and other setbacks have hampered the galloper since.
As such Manawanui hasn’t been seen in the winners’ stall since October of 2011 when he won the Group 2 Moonee Valley Vase (2040m).
His latest run was nearly a year ago with Leemon’s former stable ace suffering an irregular heart rate after an eighth to Boban in the Group 3 Moonga Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield last Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival.
Leemon has taken care of the horse since then and was rewarded when Manawanui caught the eye with a smart barrier trial win at Rosehill Gardens on Tuesday morning.
He ran over 1030m and led all the way holding off Happy Galaxy and 2014 Cox Plate-bound Dan Excel for the win ahead of his return where he will carry the second top weight of 58kg with Tye Angland riding.
The 59kg top weight, drawn one wider than Manawanui (barrier two) in gate three with Sam Clipperton in the saddle is then the Ron Quinton-trained Monton.
A veteran eight-year-old Catbird gelding Monton is third-up this prep following two good runs including a fifth to Lucia Valentina in the Group 2 Tramway Stakes (1400m) in the wet here a fortnight ago.
Chris Waller meanwhile will shoot for back-to-back Bill Ritchie Stakes wins following the success of Boban 12 months ago saddling up two chances this year.
Waller is represented by Encosta De Lago seven-year-old Riva De Lago and recent Rowley Mile runner-up Tougher Than Ever looking to improve on a second last (7th) to Cluster in the Group 2 Theo Marks Stakes (1400m) from last Saturday – the pair drawn in barriers five and six respectively.
Also with dual representation is Gai Waterhouse saddling up last year’s Ming Dynasty Quality winner Aussies Love Sport from barrier four who returned to run a distant last to Wouldnt It Be Nice in the Group 3 Concorde Stakes (1000m) on September 6 and the rails-drawn Group 2 winner Pheidon coming off a ninth in the Tramway.
Rounding out the field is then the Joe Pride-trained Rock Sturdy who won two on the trot in August before a fourth last time out over 1400m here carrying 60kg – the drop back to the 54kg minimum here then to suit.
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2014 Bill Ritchie Handicap Final Field & Barrier Draw
Randwick Race 2 (1:15pm) – 20/09/2014
|#||Form (Last 10)||Horse||Trainer||Jockey||Br.||Wgt.||Hcp. Rating|
|1||1131550×45||MONTON||Ron Quinton||Sam Clipperton||3||59kg||105|
|2||x0x50x098x||MANAWANUI||Ron Leemon||Tye Angland||2||58kg||103|
|3||81039x709x||RIVA DE LAGO||Chris Waller||Jim Cassidy||5||57kg||101|
|4||97×6498227||TOUGHER THAN EVER (NZ)||Chris Waller||Tim Clark||6||54kg||93|
|5||24123×2114||ROCK STURDY||Joseph Pride||Corey Brown||7||54kg||87|
|6||x43113x6x8||AUSSIES LOVE SPORT||Gai Waterhouse||Kerrin McEvoy||4||54kg||86|
|7||11231626×9||PHEIDON||Gai Waterhouse||James McDonald||1||54kg||86|