The Tony McEvoy-trained Manuel has rewarded the faith of his connections, delivering an upset win in the C F Orr Stakes against a star-studded field at Caulfield.
Manuel was taking on a host of more established stars in Saturday’s 1400m weight-for-age race but after dictating terms in front under Luke Currie, the five-year-old gelding rallied strongly when it mattered to score by a half-length.
Group One winners Kementari ($2.50) and Land Of Plenty ($7.50) had to settle for a dead-heat for second, while another Group One winner Brave Smash was another short half-head away in fourth.
Manuel’s best win from 22 previous starts was the Listed Kilmore Cup at the end of his spring campaign last year, and he was sent out a $21 chance on Saturday after finishing midfield in the Australia Stakes first-up.
McEvoy was in Sydney but his son and assistant trainer Calvin McEvoy said his father would have been thrilled to see Manuel deliver on the potential he had long thought he had.
“He’s the one who has had all the time and patience in this horse and had so much faith in him,” Calvin McEvoy said.
“He will be over the moon.
“I remember we ran him in the Maribyrnong Trial as a two-year-old (in 2015) and we were so confident he would win that race.
“We just thought he was the stand-out two-year-old we had and he actually pulled a muscle in that race and still ran fourth.”
Manuel was gelded before his autumn campaign last year and McEvoy believes that was the making of him as a racehorse.
“His form last preparation was so consistent,” he said.
“It’s a surprise today because he beat some really quality horses but we kind of always thought there was a glimpse of it there.”
McEvoy said they were keen to get Manuel into next month’s inaugural $5 million All-Star Mile at Flemington.
Currie said when Manuel gave a good kick off the home turn his confidence grew.
“I knew he was going to be hard to beat from there because I know how tough he is when he’s in front,” Currie said.
Kementari was sent out the $2.50 favourite but last year’s Randwick Guineas winner’s wait for another top-level win goes on.
“I thought he went well,” jockey James McDonald said.
“He’s going to improve off that but I think he’d be better off back at Randwick.”