Injury plagued six year old Manawanui produced an outstanding first up effort to score an upset win in the Group 3 $125,000 Bill Ritchie Handicap (1400m) at Randwick today.
The outsider of the small field at $18, Manawanui was able to push up along the inside to nab the $2.60 favourite Rock Sturdy over the final fifty metres to record a very satisfying win for trainer Ron Leeman.
The Chris Waller trained Tougher Than Ever ($7) ran a much improved race and made up ground from back in the field to finish third.
Manawanui hasn’t been to the racetrack since running eighth in the Group 3 $150,000 Sportingbet Moonga Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield in October last year and could be set to reclaim his glory days that saw him win the 2011 Group 1 $1m Golden Rose Stakes (1400m) at Rosehill as a three year old.
Leemon has had to nurse Manawanui back to top fitness following a host of injuries and the writing was on the wall for a good first up performance with a Rosehill barrier trial win earlier in the week.
“A lot of hard work and I never lost faith in him,” Leemon said.
“The owners stuck by me and I fully appreciate that.”
“He had a nice soft run, which I thought if he got he would be right in it and a great ride by Tye.”
“I was always hoping that everything would go right for me. We put a lot of hard work into him and the plan has been for twelve months and it’s come off.”
Before the race Leeman knew that Manawanui was the class runner of the field but know he needed a lot of luck in the run to be in the finish.
“He’s the best horse in the field, but I think he is just a little bit soft, underdone and if we get the soft run we will be there somewhere in the end,” Leeman said.
Winning jockey Tye Angland obliged and gave Manawanui a cosy run just behind the leaders and waited as long as possible in the straight before pushing through a gap at the 150m and was too strong for Rock Sturdy who had a clear run down the centre of the track.
Leeman was hoping to get through today unscathed and will wait until next week before mapping out any further Spring Carnival plans with the revitalised Manawanui.