Another special edition of the Mounting Yard awaits the punters this Friday night, with me covering the Manikato Stakes meeting.
It’s the sole group race on the meeting and Bivouac is the extremely short $1.80 favourite. There’s also some quality racing on the ‘undercards’ so to speak, with some very talented three – year – old’s competing in the first race.
The rail is true and we should be on a good surface. Let’s get cracking.
We kick off the program with a three-year-old handicap race over 1000 metres. A tough race to kick off the program.
I’m going to side with Dane Clipper here though. This filly won like an above-average horse on debut at Pakenham when winning by nearly five lengths and she backed it up well with a gallant second at Flemington behind two smart ones in Sisstar and Varda. The wide barrier (8) shouldn’t be of much impact considering it’s a 1000-metre sprint and she looks to have considerable upside and should only be improving in just her third career start.
Niedorp appeals on an each-way basis. The Queenslander ran superbly down the straight at Flemington when it just started to fade in the last 100 metres, and she just had no luck at all at this track last start. She should be more forward today and could give a big sight.
Sizzlefly and Hearty Lass are progressive fillies who also have claims.
Recommended bet: Each way play on #8 Dane Clipper.
The Vobis Gold Star awaits punters here over 1500 metres. There are only the seven runners here but it’s one of the better races on the program.
It’s hard to go past Widgee Turf. He saves his best racing for the Valley, winning three times and running second twice from seven tries and he’s come back as honest as ever in this preparation. He was unlucky resuming at this track behind the Inevitable who put a gap in the field to win by five lengths.
He only ran a length off Deprive in that first-up run who has since gone on to win the Sydney Stakes and the Inevitable has won the Silver Eagle which really franks that form line. He then ran third at Group 1 level in the Rupert Clarke before being far from disgraced in the Toorak.
He won’t be too far away from then in a small field and he should be winning dropping back in grade. Iconoclasm is the obvious danger. He maps beautifully in the run from the good gate (4) and he ran 0.6 lengths off Age of Chivalry who beat home Widgee Turf at Group 1 level.
He’ll need to improve off his last run but he can bounce back strongly. Gold Fields and Ritch Itch are seasoned gallopers who have minor claims.
Recommended bet: Win bet on #1 Widgee Turf.
We’ve got an open handicap over 2040 metres here in the third. Pretty weak field here but it’s a very open race.
Morton’s Fork doesn’t win out of turn and will need luck from the inside gate (1) but I’ve got him on top here. He’s really improved since joining the Richard Litt team. He worked home really nicely on resumption behind Articus and Scarlet Dream, before running third behind Looks like Elvis and Reckless Choice in Queensland.
He ran 1.7 lengths off Rapido Chaparro last start in the Port Macquarie Cup – that horse is a $5.50 chance in a Group 3 on Saturday and a replication of that performance would see him hard to beat here with even luck. Jaguary won three on the trot in Adelaide in very comprehensive fashion before getting beaten by 0.7 lengths last start.
He got back in the run there but from the wide gate (9) he’ll go forward and could be hard to chase down. Double You Tee is in superb form and drops 5kg from his last run. He maps poorly though and I couldn’t have him at the $3.20 quote rising in grade.
Recommended bet: Each way bet on #4 Morton’s Fork.
A 0-84 Handicap is in store for the punters here over a 955-metre scamper. Another open race to my eye but I’m happy enough to be in the corner of November Man.
His last two starts have been very impressive for this race. He came home like a bomb in the last 150 metres at the Kensington track to beat Human Nature over 1100 metres and the flashed home for second, 1.8 lengths off Agent Pippa at Randwick.
They’re going to go extremely quick in this and he should get a nice run and just stalk the speed. Damien Oliver jumps aboard and he’ll be hard to fight off late. I’ve seen worse $15 pops than Makahu Boy. He’s won two from five at the track and his run behind Vainstream at the end of last preparation is good enough to win this.
He draws perfectly (1) and will be in it for a long way. Morrisy is the short-priced favourite at $2.60. He went well last preparation and has the obvious upside that most of these don’t. He’s short enough though at the current quote. Not sure he can sprint against seasoned horses fresh.
Recommended bet: Backing both #8 November Man and #2 Makahu Boy each way.
A fillies and mares handicap over 2040 metres is the next race to analyze. I thought Oceanex would open up in the red but he is $2.20 and that’s good enough for me.
She came home really nicely at this track three starts back behind Princess Jenni and Rondinella before being a certainty beaten in the Pinker Pinker Plate against No effort who he faces again here. She went to the Coongy last start and just never even remotely had a look at them in the straight.
She drops back in grade significantly here and drawing out wide (9) is a big positive for her. With even luck, she just wins. Greysful Glamour was runner up in the Oaks as a three-year-old and has come back in okay fashion. She strung them out two starts back over the Mile at Randwick to run 0.9 lengths off Master of Wine and a repeat of that effort would give her a big hope here.
She’ll lead and try to give a kick around the bend. Head Noises is an emergency and will need luck if she is to get a run, but she seems like the best of the rest.
Recommended bet: Win bet on #3 Oceanex.
A 1200-metre handicap is the next on the program. It seems like a much more open race than the Bookies think to my eye. I’m having a throw at the stumps here with the top weight in Runson.
He went brilliantly last preparation, winning two from six including running 0.9 lengths off Osborne Bulls and Bons Away in the TAB Stakes. He hasn’t fired this preparation but I thought his run at Cranbourne was solid enough behind Tavisan.
He only ran half a length off William Thomas there who is a $3.70 favourite here so I think he’s overs at the $19 quote. He’ll make his own luck on the speed and will give a big sight. Parsifal seems like a big danger. He won four in a row last preparation before going out for a spell.
He resumed well running two lengths off Zoutori and he’s been posted wide yet ran both Renewal and Haunted to within a length in consecutive starts. Draws better today (5) and only needs even luck to be in the finish. The wide barrier draw (10) helps William Thomas today and he could overpower them late if he can replicate his first-up performance.
Recommended bet: Small each way go on #1 Runson.
The feature of the program comes here in the form of the Manikato Stakes over 1200 metres at Group 1 level. I’m not keen on jumping in at $180 for the star Colt Bivouac so I’m looking outside of him for some value.
Faatinah seems well over the odds here at the $17 quote. The globetrotting Gelding has come back to Melbourne for the Spring Carnival and has hit a rich vein of form. He resumed in the McEwen when winning by 0.2 lengths over Group horses in Bons Away and Eduardob before being caught wide and off the track in the Moir.
He still managed to finish within 0.5 lengths of Nature Strip and Miss Leonidas who have both franked that form. He should have the early speed to cross from the wide gate and if he gets near the rail he’ll be hard to run down. Trope is a massive talent. Obviously, the query is going around the Valley for the first time but I think drawing out (10) helps his cause.
He was nosed out by Deprive when resuming who has franked the form and he went pretty well in the Theo Marks running 1.8 lengths off Acadia Queen. We’re getting a decent price today. Loving Gaby was brilliant when resuming at this track when winning the Scarborough before running a bit flat second-up behind California Zimbol.
She will be ready for this assignment third up and just needs some luck from the low draw (2).
Recommended bet: Small each way plays on #3 Faatinah and #6 Trope.
The last race on the program is a Benchmark 84 handicap over the mile. It’s a pretty hard race to get out on and I’m backing two of them.
One of them is the marginal favourite in Cuba. He’s won two from five this preparation at Benchmark 70 level in Sydney and last start was the first time he’s missed the placings this preparation. He finished behind some smart ones in Final Award and El Mo and I think this is a drop in grade.
He draws perfectly (4) to go straight to the lead and there’s no better jockey than Nash Rawiller on front runners. He’ll be hard to get past. It’s worth saving on Muswellbrook. His form last preparation behind So We Are in the Adelaide Guineas looks like a good form reference for this race and he won easily when resuming at Bairnsdale.
He draws well (5) and will be charging home. Starouz, Reserve Street and I Boogi all have claims but the two I mentioned just seem to be going better at the moment.
Recommended bet: Win bet on #4 Cuba with a saver on #7 Muswellbrook.
Race 5 #3 Oceanex.
Race 4 #8 November Man.
Race 6 #1 Runson and Race 7 #3 Faatinah.
R6: 1, 5, 6, 12.
R7: 9, 3, 6, 11.
R8: 4, 7, 1, 12.