Robert Heathcote couldn’t be happier with how the Group 1 Manikato Stakes (1200m) barrier draw played out, giving defending champion Buffering a strong chance at making it two-for-two.
The Queensland trainer was delighted following Tuesday’s draw, not only because of where Buffering will start but also where his competition ended up in the $1 million sprint race.
“Not only have we drawn favourably in barrier four but several of the other fancied speed runners have drawn wide,” Heathcote told Sky Racing.
“If they want to cross Buffering, which I don’t think they can anyway, they are going to have to do a lot of work to cross him.”
Buffering will be tough to cross in barrier four, especially considering his biggest rival Lankan Rupee will start from gate nine of 12.
The seven-year-old Buffering finished third in all three of his winter racing starts but returned to winning form during his first-up in spring, the Group 1 Moir Stakes (1200m) at Moonee Valley on September 26. He narrowly beat favourite Lankan Rupee after giving a strong kick on the straight and managed to hold the lead.
Despite all this, Buffering is just the third-favourite to win the 2014 Manikato Stakes at $6 with Lankan Rupee is at $3.90 with online bookmaker Ladbrokes.com.au.
It’s Terravista who is favourite in the Manikato Stakes odds at a price of $3.40, following a two length Group 2 The Shorts (1100m) win last time out. The gelding will start barrier seven.
Heathcote still believes Lankan Rupee is Buffering’s biggest rival and is surprised that Terravista is the early favourite.
“Take nothing away from Terravista, he’s obviously a very, very good horse to have won eight of 11 starts but he’s yet to have raced at this level against this quality of opposition,” Heathcote said.
“I think Lankan Rupee deserves to be favourite. Even though he’s been beaten at his last two, I think there’s been reasons for that.”
The Manikato Stakes 2014 could well become a showdown between Buffering and Lankan Rupee, given this is their third meeting since April.
Lankan Rupee beat Buffering in the Group 1 T.J. Smith Stakes (1200m) at Randwick back in April before Buffering turned the tables in the Moir.
With one win apiece, both will be looking to break the equaliser on Friday night.
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