Oaks winner Lights Of Heaven is slowly gaining ground on stable mate Manighar in the lead up to their clash in the Group 1 $500,000 Kirks Doomben Cup (2000m) at Doomben on Saturday.
The Peter Moody trained Manighar emerged as the top weight for age performer over the Autumn with three consecutive Group 1 wins before finishing second to More Joyous in the Group 1 $500,000 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) at Randwick on April 28.
Moody turned the imported German galloper from a dour stayer into the star of the Melbourne and Sydney Autumn Carnivals with wins in the $1m Dubai Australian Cup (2000m) at Flemington on March 10, the $400,000 Ranvet Stakes (2000m) at Rosehill on March 24 and the $2.25m The BMW (2400m) at Rosehill on April 7.
But Moody was pleased to see the return to form of last year’s Australasian Oaks winner Lights Of Heaven when narrowly beaten by Kiwi mare Shez Sinsational in the Group 2 $300,000 Gold Coast Turf Club A D Hollindale Stakes (1800m) at the Gold Coast on May 5.
At one stage leading into the Spring last year, the Zabeel mare was the early favourite for the major races but failed to live up to expectations and her form tapered away.
But with glimpses of her old form at the Gold Coast, she is now firming in the betting for Saturday’s clash with Manighar and the return bout with Shez Sinsational.
“They’re both going so well it’s a pity they have to clash in this race,” Moody said.
“Manighar’s run in the Queen Elizabeth was very good. He got trapped on the fence in a slowly run race,” Moody said.
“That won’t happen to him at Doomben and the mare ran super in the Hollindale,” he said.
Manighar maintained favouritism at the top of the market in the Doomben Cup at $3, with the Hollindale Stakes winner Shez Sinsational on the second line of betting at $4.60 just ahead of Lights Of Heaven at $5.50.
The Anthony Freedman trained Mawingo is the only other runner under double figures at $9 after finishing third to Shez Sinsational at the Gold Coast.
Stable rider Luke Nolen is expected to be back on Manighar on Saturday after Damien Oliver deputized for him in the Queen Elizabeth when he was in Adelaide steering Black Caviar to her twentieth straight win in the Group 1 $400,000 Sportingbet Classic at Morphettville.
But Oliver is favoured to switch to Lights Of Heaven replacing Nolen who rode the mare in the Hollindale.
Melbourne’s premier trainer is chasing his second Doomben Cup victory after taking out the weight for age race in 2007 with Cinque Cento and leans slightly towards the grey who has settled in well at Eagle Farm.
“There is no doubt he is my preferred runner even though Lights Of Heaven is going into the race in good touch as well,” Moody said.
“Taking Manighar to Brisbane was an easy decision. He’s in a Group 1 race worth half a million dollars. Why wouldn’t you take him there the way he is going?”
Moody was able to squeeze in a visit to Eagle Farm last week in between his trip to Hong Kong to saddle up the unplaced King’s Rose in the Group 1 HK$12m The BMW Champions Mile (1600m) at Sha Tin on May 6 and Morphettville on Saturday for Black Caviar’s win in the Group 1 $500,000 The Distinctive Homes Goodwood (1200m).
“He’s in great shape. I looked at him closely at Eagle Farm on Thursday morning and I was surprised at how well he has come up after the trip up from Sydney,” Moody said.
Moody has already trained eight Group 1 winners this season and if he were to claim Saturday’s Doomben Cup, would equal last year’s Group 1 tally of nine.