A field of 13 face off under the lights at Moonee Valley on Friday night for the Group 1 $1 million Ladbrokes Manikato Stakes (1200m) and it is one of the most open editions of the Cox Plate Carnival sprint in recent years.
All-in favourite Paulele was a non-acceptor for the weight-for-age VRC Darley Classic lead-up leaving a new top elect in the Tony & Calvin McEvoy-trained Savatoxl.
The autumn’s Group 1 The Goodwood winner in Adelaide is into $4 in the latest Manikato Stakes odds at Ladbrokes.com.au to make it two-from-two this prep following a nice win fresh in Caulfield’s Group 2 Schillaci Stakes (1200m).
Gold Edition (2007) was the last horse to complete the Schillaci Stakes – Manikato Stakes double in the same year with Savatoxl out to be the next from barrier eight.
Dual Manikato Stakes winning jockey Luke Currie rides the favourite chasing his third win and second on the trot.
He guided Hey Doc to victory for the horses two victories three years apart in 2017 and 2020 for the same stable Savatoxl hails from.
The McEvoys are also represented in the Manikato Stakes field in 2021 by rank outsider Despatch ($101) in barrier four.
The danger according to the bookies occupying the second line of betting at $6 is the James Cummings-trained three-year-old Ingratiating.
Craig Williams partners the Frosted colt from a midfield barrier seven draw on 53kg with the hoop chasing his second win in three years following a 2019 victory aboard the filly Loving Gaby.
Golden Slipper third placegetter in the autumn and first-up Group 3 Vain Stakes champion over General Beau, Ingratiating is fourth-up and fit on Friday night out to atone for his distant ninth when carrying 58.5kg in the Group 2 Danehill Stakes (1200m) down the ‘Straight Six’ at HQ on October 2.
Ciaron Maher & David Eustace are preparing for an emotional Cox Plate Carnival following last Saturday’s loss of the 2020 Cox Plate champion Sir Dragonet who broke down in a piece of trackwork.
They won the Manikato two years back with the aforementioned Loving Gaby (2019) and are in with a strong hand saddling-up four runners in this year’s field including two fillies: Sneaky Five in six and Crystyal Bound in two both carrying just 51kg.
Sneaky Five is being kept safe in the markets at $8 as the three-year-old daughter of Fastnet Rock looks to retain her undefeated status with a fourth career victory.
She won the $500,000 Inglis Banner on debut at the track last Cox Plate Day before taking out the $1 million Golden Gift in Sydney.
Her return this spring was on Caulfield Guineas Day in the Group 3 Thoroughbred Club Stakes where she saluted by three-quarters of a length in the same race Crystal Bound (3rd) comes from into the Manikato against the older gallopers.
The other Maher/Eustace runners are the mares Away Game ($26) in the far outside alley looking to bounce back off her last to Kementari in the Group 2 Gilgai Stakes (1200m) and the ultra-consistent Bella Nipotina ($12).
A four-year-old daughter of Pride Of Dubai, Bella Nipotina has finished in the money in all five runs this season and has posted two wins in that time including in the Group 3 How Now Stakes (1200m) on September 18 at Caulfield.
She was last seen running third in the Schillaci Stakes when a quarter-length off Friday night’s favourite Savatoxl and has run second in three of her four previous runs at Moonee Valley.
The other standout in the Manikato line-up at the twilight meet is Lombardo ($7) for the in-form training partnership of Mick Price & Michael Kent (Jnr) chasing a fourth win on the trot.
“I think he’ll get a run and I think he’ll give a bit of cheek,” co-trainer Price said told the Herald Sun speaking of Lombardo this week.
“I’ve never thought of him as a Group 1 horse but that doesn’t matter, he doesn’t know whether he’s a Group 1 horse.
“He’s fit and he’s sound and he’s well and Jye (McNeil) has already had a ride on him for a win.
“We’ll be doing our best to get him a Group 1 win.”
The Ladbrokes Manikato Stakes is set to run as Race 5 at The Valley on Friday night.