Spring stars emerge on revealing Makybe Diva Day
Southern Speed just edges out Manighar (Image: AAP)
Saturday’s racing at Flemington and Warwick Farm marked the beginning of the Spring Carnival, with some familiar names notching up victory.
But, as I wrote last Thursday, history said the racing would provide a pointer to the spring’s big races, and behind a few of the winners, big players emerged.
The feature race was the Makybe Diva Stakes (1600 metres Group Two) which was won by Southern Speed.
The 2011 Caulfield Cup winner was positioned beautifully behind the leaders by Craig Williams and the Leon Macdonald-trained mare was able to hold off a luckless Manighar in a driving finish.
Southern Speed is likely to be aimed at the Cox Plate but a kind handicap in the Caulfield Cup of 54.5 kilograms – two kilos more than she carried to victory last year – will create headaches for her connections. It is understood Southern Speed won’t run in both the Caulfield Cup and Cox Plate.
Manighar was outstanding in defeat. The triple Group One winning grey was awkwardly placed behind Southern Speed and could not get clear running until late in the straight.
First-up from a short spell, Manighar charged once in the open and was unlucky to go down in a photo finish.
Peter Moody will prepare Manighar – who finished fifth and seventh in the last two Melbourne Cups – for his first Cox Plate, to be held on October 27. Saturday was the only time the seven-year old gelding has finished behind Southern Speed in five meetings.
Away from Southern Speed and Manighar, there were many encouraging runs in the Makybe Diva but none more than Moudre. In 2010 Moudre was touted by many good judges as a horse to follow for the Melbourne Cup.
But after a closing second behind eventual Cup winner Americain in the Geelong Cup and luckless fourth behind Cup runner-up Maluckyday on Derby Day, Moudre failed to make the field for Australia’s richest race.
Like Makybe Diva in 2002, Moudre won the Queen Elizabeth on the final day of the 2010 Carnival, but injury kept him off the racetrack for 18 months after a quiet 2011 autumn.
Prepared by Ciaron Maher, Moudre put in a career-best run on Saturday. He pinched runs to take third position in what was a fantastic return to racing.
But just like in 2010, Moudre will have his work cut out to make the Melbourne Cup. His handicap rating has dropped off significantly after missing 18 months of racing, and ground needs to be made up.
I hope he makes the field because there aren’t many more talented Australian-bred stayers.
The other strong performance in the Makybe Diva was Mourayan. Mourayan is a stayer I have a lot of time for.
He was my top selection for last year’s Melbourne Cup but failed to take his place in the field because of a minor hoof problem on Cup morning.
In the Makybe Diva, Mourayan sat wide and without cover on a windy day but stuck on very strongly in the straight to hold on for fourth, beaten by less than three lengths. A seven year old, as is Moudre, Mourayan has returned in outstanding order.
Efficient, the stablemate of Mourayan – who worked so well the previous Saturday in an exhibition gallop – was disappointing in tenth. Unable to make up any ground in the straight, the nine-year old may take some racing before we see anything encouraging in the spring.
From a Cup perspective, one of the other exciting performances came in the Let’s Elope (1400 metres Group Two) via New Zealand mare Zurella.
The Let’s Elope was the race used by Pinker Pinker to launch her successful Cox Plate raid last spring and there is similar promise with Zurella.
Zurella put in an eye-catching run when going down narrowly in March’s New Zealand Oaks (2400 metres, Group One) but looks to have taken the necessary improvement from a long spell.
The daughter of notable staying sire Zabeel appreciated the firm ground on Saturday to win by one length from the luckless Hi Belle who mustn’t be far away from victory.
In the final event of the day, progressive stayer Excluded continued his good form to win by half a length from the flying Exceptionally, who has very similar formlines to Moudre in the 2010 spring.
After disappointing last season, the six year old mare appears to be in career-best form, and like Excluded, deserves a shot at the big handicaps.
In the three-year-old sprint (1200 metres, Group Two), Snitzerland showed great courage to run down the impressive Stralia. I suspect both horses will enjoy some form of Group One success in the near future.
There is every chance that Snitzerland will have an undefeated spring culminating in Derby Day’s Coolmore Stud Stakes, while Stralia appears, to my eye, to be one of Pierro’s few dangers in October’s Caulfield Guineas.
In Sydney, nine-year-old Danleigh was outstanding in victory in the Chelmsford Stakes (1600 metres, Group Two).
I was quite suspicious when Chris Waller told the media a month ago that Danleigh was impressing in his trackwork, but after two slashing runs this campaign, I think Danleigh is in career-best form. For a horse who’s been around almost as long as I have, it’s quite a training achievement!
Danleigh will head to the George Main (Group One, 1600 metres, weight for age) in two weeks’ time before a probable shot at the Epsom Handicap (Group One 1600 metres) a week later.
Secret Admirer was second on Saturday and her Cox Plate preparation appears to be going smoothly, while Lamasery and ATC Derby runner-up Polish Knight are ticking over nicely for races like the Caulfield Cup.
Saturday’s racing at the Farm may have unveiled the VRC Oaks favourite. Dear Demi showed superior strength in the Furious Stakes (1400 metres, Group Two) to stave off the consistent Meidung and Jade Marauder.
All three fillies were dismantled by Golden Rose favourite Nechita two weeks ago, so perhaps that is another indicator of the class of Nathan Tinkler’s star filly.
Dear Demi will continue her path towards the Flight Stakes (Group One, 1600 metres) on October 6 before heading down to Melbourne.
Four-time Golden Slipper winning trainer Clarry Connors is so bullish about Dear Demi’s staying pedigree that he is toying with the idea of taking on the colts in the Derby before backing up five days later in the Oaks.
While I’m sure it has happened at some point in history, I can’t recall any filly doing that in the Melbourne spring.
But it shouldn’t be unfamiliar for owner John Singleton because another of his horses, Tuesday Joy, finished third in both the 2007 AJC Derby and Oaks at Randwick.
The Roar is giving you the chance to win 1 of 19 prize packs to Australian Open 2014! Each lucky winner will receive four evening tickets to Rod Laver Arena, plus access to 3 hours in the Heineken VIP Bar. Enter here.