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The Manikato Stakes (1200m) is named after one of the best Moonee Valley sprinters we’ve seen.

This year, we may get to see a new star emerge – but who will it be?

Just Horse Racing’s Andrew Hawkins has compiled this preview for readers:

1. HAPPY ZERO (2)

Former Hong Kong galloper once considered the best sprinter in the world. He’s a beauty. He’s obviously had problems, hence why he’s over here. I believe the plan is to get him ready for another tilt at the Group 1 Hong Kong International Sprint (1200m) in December. Anyway, his first up run was super. He’ll be much better out to 1200m. He’s bred to handle a bit of give in the ground. I honestly think he only needs to be 80% right to be in the finish. Way, way over the odds at his current quote. Big chance.

2. BUFFERING (3)

Queenslander who finished third behind Black Caviar and Hay List in the G1 BTC Cup (1200m). He’s a very nice horse, and he’s always shown promise. Won at Randwick on this weekend last year. Very good first up, and he’ll take improvement. May not have too much pressure up front either. He’ll be in the mix.

3. ATOMIC FORCE (7)

Group 1 Galaxy winner. He’s probably best at 1100m, and that could see him struggle here against a crack field. That said, he did run second to Buffering in a weight for age race in Brisbane, so on that run you can’t dismiss him entirely. Place chance at best for mine.

4. MORE JOYOUS (4)

The queen of the Sydney turf. She’s a beauty. She’s had a bit of an unusual preparation – two trials, the latest more than four weeks ago. But she goes well fresh so perhaps they’ve been wanting to keep her as fresh as possible. I’m certainly not one to doubt Gai. Forgive her failure in the Doncaster, as she quite clearly doesn’t handle heavy tracks. The major query is whether she’ll have the zip to win in this class. Good chance, but she’s an absolute certainty second up.

5. SISTER MADLY (5)

A full sister to one of the world’s great sprinters in Silent Witness. This is much tougher than the race she won first up – which she did in impressive fashion, mind you. Still, I doubt she could win this race. Take a line through her meetings with More Joyous in the past. Rough place chance.

6. RUE MAPLE (6)

Very honest mare. You’d love to own her but gee, this is another class altogether. I’d be very surprised if she ran into the placings, although honesty can sometimes throw up funny results! Not for mine though.

7. KULGRINDA (8)

The unknown quantity in the race! It would be fitting if she won, given that owner David Moodie was also supposed to have the ill fated Crystal Lily running here as well. She started a well supported favourite in the McEwen, when she finished fourth to Buffering. Might have to go to the lead from the wide gate, which in itself may not be a bad thing. I reckon she’s probably a place chance at best, but she is the unknown factor. Could surprise.

8. SEPOY (1)

Last season’s Golden Slipper and Blue Diamond Stakes winner. What a horse! His only defeat came at the hands of Smart Missile, who surely is a Group 1 winner in waiting. Inside barrier is a concern, pattern is a concern, the map is a concern – but only for those who want to find reasons he’ll be beaten. For me, the major concern is the price – I want value. Realistically, I think he’ll win. Still, I hope Happy Zero can knock him off at the odds. But I’ll take the quinella, just to be safe!

SUMMARY

As I’ve said above, everything points to Sepoy. But I’m going to put HAPPY ZERO on top at a ridiculous price ahead of the star SEPOY. Outside of that, I think it is fairly straightforward. MORE JOYOUS looks next best, followed by BUFFERING. Good little race. It gets a bit harder from here as the weekend progresses though!

NUMBERS

1 – HAPPY ZERO
8 – SEPOY
4 – MORE JOYOUS
2 – BUFFERING

 
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