Veteran sprinter Rebel Dane upstaged a star-studded field to record an upset victory in the 2016 Manikato Stakes at Moonee Valley on Saturday.
Rebel Dane was settled in the middle of the Manikato Stakes field in the early stages of the race, while Fell Swoop took on Buffering for the lead in the early stages of the race.
The majority of the field elected to head to the outside of the Moonee Valley straight, but jockey Ben Melham elected to cut the corner on Rebel Dane and it paid dividends when the seven-year-old hit the front at the 150 metre mark before he held off a gallant Fell Swoop in the final stages of the race.
Melham was having his first ever race ride on Rebel Dane in the Manikato Stakes and he was clearly delighted, but slightly in shock to have won a Group 1 on the son of California Dane.
“It was a great win,” Melham said.
“He has deserved to win another Group 1 this horse.
“He has had a few goes at it and ran some third, fourth and fifths and it is good to see him come here and win with a bit of authority.
“He broke pretty well and they were happy to race a fair bit off the fence.
“They travelled to the corner and I gave them a boot up inside them and he really let down with a good bit of dash.”
Trainer Gary Portelli has been extremely patient with Rebel Dane throughout his racing career and he was clearly over the moon to see his star galloper record his first win at Group 1 level since he took out the 2013 edition of the Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes.
Portelli believed that Rebel Dane was worthy of another shot at the Manikato Stakes following his fast-finishing effort in the Group 2 Premiere Stakes (1200m) at Royal Randwick and was quick to thank the owners of the seven-year-old for sticking solid throughout his racing career.
“There is hope for us all,” Portelli said.
“It has been a great team effort from us all.
“We have been taking him down to the beach, putting him over some hurdles and just trying to break it up.
“I knew that he had it in him – last start at Randwick he ran 32.80 his last 600 and it was the second fastest outside of Astern, so I said we had to have a go at this race.
“Here we are in the winners circle.
“I have to thank the syndicate for leaving him with us and giving us the chance to have another crack at the Manikato.
“We could have pulled up stumps earlier in this campaign, but we have been confident the horse has been right and it is only a matter of getting some luck and he would finish in the top five tonight.”
The big story coming out of the race was Chautauqua, who failed to fire for the second start in a row and missed the Manikato Stakes placings.
Co-trainer Wayne Hawkes admitted after the race that there were no excuses for Chautauqua in the Manikato Stakes and he confirmed that the son of Encosta De Lago would be sent to the spelling paddock.