Lankan Rupee led from start to finish to record a narrow win in a remarkable edition of the 2014 Manikato Stakes at Moonee Valley tonight.
Jockey Craig Newitt was criticized for being too conservative on Lankan Rupee in the Group 1 Moir Stakes (1200m) at Moonee Valley on September 26 and he elected to press forward on the talented sprinter in the early stages of the Manikato Stakes.
Lankan Rupee was able to find the rail and take up the running from Buffering, but both horses looked like sitting ducks coming around the bend as the likes of Terravista, Rebel Dane, Angelic Light and Famous Seamus tracked into the race.
Terravista and Rebel Dane were both held up at a key point before flashing home late, while Angelic Light and Famous Seamus both dived in the final 50 metres, but Lankan Rupee was able to hang on to record his fourth Group 1 victory; with Buffering, Rebel Dane, Angelic Light, Famous Seamus, Temple Of Boom, Terravista and Moment Of Change all spread across the track in an incredibly tight battle for the minor placings.
Newitt came under fire after Lankan Rupee suffered defeats in both the Group 2 McEwen Stakes (1000m) and Manikato Stakes, but the leading hoop was delighted to see the Redoute’s Choice gelding return to winning form and he believes the five-year-old will produce an ever better performance in the Group 1 Darley Classic (1200m) on the final day of the 2014 Melbourne Cup Carnival.
“He is just a rocket this horse out of the machines and he grabbed the bit between his teeth,” Newitt said.
“He didn’t really get a breather, but I dragged him around the corner and let him rail up.
“He was there to be run down late, but he was strong through.
“He is a little rocket and I love him because he bounces the gates and puts himself on the speed.
“If they are good enough to run him down good luck, but I’ve said all along that I just can’t wait to get him to Flemington and down the straight because I know he will improve out of sight.”
Trainer Mick Price was bitterly dissapointed to see Lankan Rupee defeated in the McEwen Stakes and Moir Stakes and he said after the race that he was both excited and relieved to see his star sprinter return to winning form.
The leading trainer praised Newitt for the braveness of his ride and said that he was happy with the decision to take on Buffering in the early stages of the Manikato Stakes.
“I am very relived,” Price said.
“It was a gutsy ride and a gutsy decision to cross Buffering, but I ccertaintydidn’t want to be seeing a repeat of what happened four weeks ago.
“He is a very hard horse to get past Buffering and Damian Browne is pretty good on him, so we were going to eyeball Buffering.
“My heart was pumping and it was fantastic.
“He is just such a great horse for us.”
While Price and Newitt were both delighted after the race, they than had a stressful hour after Damien Oliver on Angelic Light and Tim Clark on Famous Seamus lodged a protest against Lankan Rupee due to alleged interference in the early stages of the race.
Damian Brown and Tegan Harrison (who rode Temple Of Boom) were both called into the stewards room to answer questions about the interference and the Racing Victoria stewards took a great deal of time before they dismissed both protests and allowed Lankan Rupee to stand as the winner of the race.
The dramatic Manikato Stakes sets up what could be the most anticipated race of the 2014 Spring Racing Carnival in the Darley Classic; with the majority of the Manikato Stakes set to clash with leading European sprinter Slade Power and Team Hawkes-trained Chautauqua.