Racing

Manikato Stakes: Betting Preview & Tips

IT may be the lesser cousin of Moonee Valley’s two Group 1 races this weekend, but the Manikato Stakes is anything but a second rate event.

Fourteen top class sprinters – including four from Aidan O’Brien’s Ballydoyle operation in Ireland – will face the starter on Friday night over the tight 1200m course.

We’ve compiled our thoughts on each runner to deliver your comprehensive preview, including our verdict on the likely winner.

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THE SPEED

Plenty of fast fillies in this one will ensure that the speed is on from the get go. The most likely leader is the filly Sunlight, with the likes of Invincible Star and Houtzen also up on the pace. Throw U S Navy Flag and Jungle Edge into the equation and we have a keenly contested affair. There’s also some question marks around the tactics of Aidan O’Brien’s Fleet Review and Spirit Of Valour from the wide draws – hard to see one of them not pushing forward.

THE RUNNERS

BRAVE SMASH

Jockey: Hugh Bowman. Trainer: Darren Weir. Barrier: 9

Brave Smash ‘always runs well’ but in reality he’s starting to become costly at this level. Seven starts without a win isn’t the end of the world but he tends to always be ‘running on’ without seriously challenging for victory. In his favour is a middle draw and his record at The Valley. Place chance.

KEMENTARI

Jockey: Glyn Schofield. Trainer: James Cummings. Barrier: 12.

There’s always plenty of hype around Kementari but he lines up here with more question marks than we can handle for a horse at $5.00. He is good over 1200m (second to Pierata as a moral beaten reads well) but he’s back from 1600m and drawn the carpark here. Are we overlooking a brilliant plan from James Cummings? Guess we’ll find out.

MALAGUERRA

Jockey: Ben Melham. Trainer: Peter Gelagotis. Barrier: 1.

After a year off the scene, Malaguerra returns for another crack at the Manikato after storming home for third last year. He handles the track but the low draw is a concern – how far back will he get?

VOODOO LAD

Jockey: Mark Zahra. Trainer: Darren Weir. Barrier: 8.

Unbeaten at the track and trip, the question punters need to ask about Voodoo Lad is whether he peaked when running down Home Of The Brave at Flemington three back. If yes, then leave him alone. If there’s something left in the tank, he could prove a serious threat in this at each-way odds.

JUNGLE EDGE

Jockey: Dylan Dunn. Trainer: Mick Bell. Barrier: 6.

He’s been a great story for the battlers but unfortunately that won’t make us money. No rain = no bet.

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SPIRIT OF VALOUR

Jockey: Oisin Murphy. Trainer: Aiden O’Brien. Barrier: 14.

The first of the Ballydoyle quartet has received the visitors’ draw. His first run on Australian soil at Caulfield was excellent and the extra 100m will suit – he’s a good horse. Hard to bet early with confidence from the draw though, so watch the late market moves very closely.

INTELLIGENCE CROSS

Jockey: Emmet McNamara. Trainer: Aiden O’Brien. Barrier: 5.

It is hard to get a handle on an international when they miss the start by five lengths, as was the case with Intelligence Cross in the Schillaci. He’s only made an impression once in the past year and that was at Listed level behind stablemate Fleet Review. Hard to have.

U S NAVY FLAG

Jockey: Ryan Moore. Trainer: Aidan O’Brien. Barrier: 2.

If you forgive the performance of U S Navy Flag in the Everest, when horse and bottomless track didn’t agree with each other, then there’s plenty to like about this sprinter here. However this is certain to be a high pressure affair – is being bottled away on the fence at a tight track the place to be?

FLEET REVIEW

Jockey: Kerrin McEvoy. Trainer: Aiden O’Brien. Barrier: 11.

We’re playing the guessing game with this bloke too, but as a three year old he has upside. Raced without luck first up and his prior form is mixed – third to U S Navy Flag at G1 level reads well, beating Intelligence Cross home by 0.1L in Listed company doesn’t.

HOUTZEN

Jockey: Ryan Maloney. Trainer: Toby Edmonds. Barrier: 10.

The first of the local flying fillies, she’s been given a month to freshen up following a sickening fifth in the Moir when blocked for a run – would she have held out Viddora though? In any case she’s an attractive option here – she’ll settle towards the front but will still need clean breaks late.

TULIP

Jockey: Regan Bayliss. Trainer: David & Ben Hayes & Tom Dabernig. Barrier: 10.

She’s a mare in form and enjoys this track, but we’re not sure Tulip has the speed of some of her rivals Looks a candidate to get caught back in the ruck and that’s not where we want to be.

SPRIGHT

Jockey: Damien Oliver. Trainer: Garry Frazer. Barrier: 13.

The knockout hope despite the wide draw. She flew home first up in the Moir when third behind Viddora and her best runs have come over 1200m. Will have plenty of ground to make up once again.

INVINCIBLE STAR

Jockey: Stephen Baster. Trainer: Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott. Barrier: 7.

Mixed messages flew around when she was withdrawn from The Everest but on her day Invincible Star is seriously quick. The Waterhouse & Bott team are flying at present and she’ll put herself in the action here. Betting will tell the story.

SUNLIGHT

Jockey: Tim Clark. Trainer: Tony McEvoy. Barrier: 3.

The sole three-year-old filly gets in with 51.5kgs for this one and should be leading the field from barrier three. Was dominant in lesser company last start off an eight-week freshen so will need to improve here. Gets an in-form jockey and every hope from the front.

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THE VERDICT

There’s plenty of quality in this field and despite the absence of a clear standout, there does look to be a few betting options. HOUTZEN goes on top – a fast filly and track specialist who just needs clear running when it matters most. Same goes for U S NAVY FLAG who can show his class back on drier ground. There’s also something to say for the front-running duo SUNLIGHT and INVINCIBLE STAR – the former should jump at better than the current quote, the latter provides nice each-way value.

    1. HOUTZEN
    2. U S NAVY FLAG
    3. SUNLIGHT
    4. INVINCIBLE STAR

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