Trainer Ron Leemon is looking towards this Saturday’s $1.5 million Victoria Derby with his gun three-year-old Manawanui.
The Oratorio gelding is currently favourite for the race after his dominant victory in the AAMI Vase last Saturday.
“It’s an amazing ride, the horse just keeps stepping up and performing,” Leemon said.
Manawanui went to the back of the AAMI Vase field last weekend; a tactic which differed greatly from his Golden Rose and Caulfield Guineas runs.
“We weren’t worried at all,” Leemon said.
“None of those horses could sprint with him.”
Manawanui finished a close second to talented young colt Helmet in the Caulfield Guineas earlier this month.
Helmet then went on to finish a disappointing eighth in the Cox Plate, which Leemon puts down to his tough Guineas run.
“I think he could have had a gut buster. It was a real gut buster between the two (Manawanui and Helmet),” Leemon said.
“I know that my horse took a couple of days to bounce back.”
The trainer is refusing to speculate on whether Manawanui could have won the $3 million Cox Plate himself based on his AAMI Vase performance.
“You can’t compare it,” he said.
“(It’s a) totally different kettle of fish and totally different class of horse.”
Manawanui will attempt to run 2,500 metres in the Derby for the first time in his eight-start career.
“I don’t have any reservations because I’ve always known all along (he could make the distance),” Leemon said.
“I’m quietly confident that we’ll have no problems with the 2,500.
“That would be very very nice for the owners.”
The trainer is planning not to over-work Manawanui in the days leading up to this weekend’s Derby test.
“Just light work this morning, he may do a little bit of pace work maybe over 2000 if I’m happy with him and go into the Derby quite fresh,” he said.
Manawanui has been a blessing to his many owners, winning six of his eight career starts and earning close to $1.2 million in prize money.