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Robert Heathcote is convinced the Manikato Stakes barrier draw has played out in favour of his defending champion Buffering.

But the Queensland trainer still rates Lankan Rupee as the horse to beat and is surprised Sydney sprinter Terravista is the early favourite.

Buffering returned to winning form with his first-up win in the Group One Moir Stakes, narrowly beating Lankan Rupee in a field of five.

Yet Buffering is on the third line of betting at $5.50 after drawing barrier four in Friday night’s $1 million sprint at Moonee Valley with Lankan Rupee ($3.70) drawing gate nine in the field of 12.

Bookmakers have made Terravista the $3.50 favourite from gate seven.

Heathcote insists Buffering is as well as he has ever been and said he was delighted after Tuesday’s draw.

“Not only have we drawn favourably in barrier four but several of the other fancied speed runners have drawn wide,” he said.

“If they want to cross Buffering, which I don’t think they can anyway, they are going to have to do a lot of work to cross him.”

Buffering turned the tables on Lankan Rupee in the Moir after the Mick Price-trained star beat the Queenslander in the TJ Smith Stakes at Randwick in April.

Lankan Rupee has been narrowly beaten twice this campaign, both at Moonee Valley, where he doesn’t appear to be at his explosive best.

Heathcote still rates him the one to beat.

“Take nothing away from Terravista, he’s obviously a very, very good horse to have won eight of 11 starts but he’s yet to have raced at this level against this quality of opposition,” Heathcote said.

“I think Lankan Rupee deserves to be favourite. Even though he’s been beaten at his last two, I think there’s been reasons for that.”

The star-studded race is without one of Australia’s emerging sprinters with the Hawkes Racing team deciding to save Chautauqua for the Darley Classic at Flemington next month.

 
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