A dash of international spice has been added to this year's Manikato Stakes making it one of the most intriguing Group One races of the spring. For two decades, overseas trainers have been sending their seasoned stayers to the southern hemisphere in an effort to plunder the riches of the Spring Racing Carnival, but now, a world-class sprinter in Lucky Nine has arrived on Australian shores to challenge the very best local speedsters in Friday night's G1 feature at Moonee Valley.
Prepared by champion Hong Kong trainer Caspar Fownes, Lucky Nine's last appearance on the racetrack saw him take out the highly-competitive G1 Krisflyer Sprint in Singapore, denying Australia's very own 2013 Galaxy winner Bel Sprinter, a second career Group One victory.
Critically, the Krisflyer was in May, prompting renowned Fownes to suggest his sprint sensation is considerably underdone. In pugilistic terms, Fownes seems to be playing 'rope-a-dope' in an attempt to claim underdog status, but local trainers should be extremely wary.
Takes a look back through Lucky Nine's racing career and you just know that he will provide the sternest of tests for the local gallopers.
In Hong Kong, his wins include a Classic Mile, an International Sprint, a Silver Jubilee Cup and the Chairman's Sprint Prize….and you can also add a bold 3rd in the Golden Shaheen in Dubai in 2012 to his resume.
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The clear-cut favourite for the Manikato is last start Group One Moir Stakes victor Samaready, who is currently $2.70 with on the tab.com.au Fixed Odds market.
In a short career, the former Blue Diamond winner has only missed the placings once, and Craig Newitt is keen to deliver a third group one triumph for her connections.
The Robert Heathcote-trained Buffering ($7) has competed at the elite G1 company on 17 occasions but is yet to break his maiden status…he has recovered well since a stone-bruise he suffered in the Moir Stakes and is given a huge chance due to his ability to handle the tight-turning Moonee Valley track.
The Gary Portelli prepared Rebel Dane represents great value at $9 after his victory in the G1 Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes in September, however, the biggest question mark that hangs over him is his ability to handle Moonee Valley having not raced there prior.
The Manikato Stakes meeting will provide a sensational entree to Saturday's highly anticipated Cox Plate meeting and don't forget to join myself, Duff, Richard and Benz for a comprehensive review of Friday night and Saturday afternoon's Moonee Valley meetings on our special 90 minute Spring Carnival edition of Racing Retro at 8.30am Sunday morning (AEDT).