Queensland hoop Damian Browne admits that Friday night’s Manikato Stakes 2015 run at Moonee Valley could be the career swansong of Robert Heathcote’s brilliant $5 million earner Buffering.
The veteran eight-year-old son of Mossman is one of 10 sprinters in the mix for this year’s $1 million Group 1 Manikato Stakes (1200m), a race Buffering contests for the fifth straight year this weekend.
Fourth in 2011 to Sepoy and sixth to Sea Siren in 2012 he won the race in the race two years ago before a seventh behind Lankan Rupee last Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival.
The always-honest Queensland champion has to date won 17 of his 47 career starts amassing an impressive $5,154,866 in prize money for connections, and Browne has been aboard for his 17 most recent starts including five Group 1 victories during that stint.
Buffering is a five-time winner from 10 Moonee Valley runs, his latest being a first-up victory last time out when proving his evergreen status in the Group 1 Moir Stakes (1000m) on October 2.
“They’ve all been pretty special [the Group 1 wins] and after everything we’d been through it was great to just get one on the board,” Browne told The Age this week.
“Over the last 12 months people have probably been saying he’s past his best and it was good last start he could show everyone he’s not.”
That was his third Moir Stakes win in four years and could prove the form line to follow into his second-up run in the Manikato.
Despite the horse’s excellent form, Browne is always wary when he jumps on board that it could be the last time Buffering gets to prove his brilliance on the track with age sure to catch up with him.
“With every run you’re wondering now,” Browne told The Age this week.
“When you get to that age, you know the end could come any time with him really.
“But it’s surprising just how well he comes up each time. I suppose we were starting to wonder whether he still had the will to win, which is his main asset. The other night he showed he has.”
From 10 previous second-up runs Buffering boasts three wins, two seconds and two thirds and is drawn in barrier seven for his 11th attempt two runs in.
Barrier seven hasn’t produced a Manikato Stakes winner since King Marauding won as a three-year-old back in 1992, a hoodoo Buffering will be out to break this weekend.
No eight-year-old has won the race in either 30 years either, giving the 2013 champ a couple of statistical disadvantages this Manikato Stakes Night.
The latest Manikato Stakes odds at Ladbrokes.com.au, who are offering Best Tote or SP + 20% on the Group 1 classic, are firmly led by the champion Team Hawkes-trained Chautauqua ($2) jumping from gate two with Tommy Berry aboard.
Buffering meanwhile is an early market mover backed in from $8 into $7.50 to beat other stars including the rails-drawn Joe Pride-trained Terravista ($5.50) and the returning Ciaron Maher-trained mare Srikandi ($6.50) who, from the outside alley, is likely to work across.
Browne is happy with his alley and knows how hard inside alley are in a fast-paced sprint like the Manikato at the notoriously tight Moonee Valley circuit.
“You would hope the likes of Chautauqua will get buried along the fence … at least that’s what we hope anyway,” he said.
“Their barriers are probably more of a concern to them than ours is to us anyway.
“I suppose [Buffering’s] racing pattern is a big help around [Moonee Valley], whereas the likes of Chautauqua do need a bit of luck. My bloke just takes luck out of play and it probably suits him a little bit more.
“I’d rather there be not as much drama [this year] and we just win it out on the track. The horses in the race, I know there are only 10 in it, are all quality and it’s going to be a super race.”
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