October’s Manikato Stakes at Moonee Valley Racecourse could be on the spring agenda for Under The Louvre who pleased trainer Robert Smerdon in his Cranbourne hit-out on Monday.
Despite finishing last behind the Grahame Begg-trained mare Mossin’ Around in the five-starter trial over 800m on the Heavy (8) track, Smerdon’s Stradbroke Handicap winning stallion is on track for a return to racing as soon as August 27.
That followed a nice second to Black Heart Bart, who ran second in the Stradbroke, in Adelaide’s Group 1 The Goodwood (1200m) in May – a race he crowed third in the previous winter.
Last Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival Under The Louvre kicked things off with a third to Bounding in the $150,000 Group 3 The Heath 1100 Stakes (1100m) at Caulfield Racecourse.
Smerdon plans to give him a second trial this time in ahead of another first-up run in The Heath 1100 on Memsie Stakes Day, August 27.
“Today was more about a day out for him, get an adrenaline rush from being on the float and having some competition around him,” Smerdon told Racing Victoria on Monday.
“He was never asked to do a lot, Ben Thompson had a positive report. He said he didn’t do anything on him and that was the whole point of the exercise.
“And the ground was a bit heavy, he will come back here in a fortnight, have a more solid trial and then will resume in the Saturday after that [in The Heath 1100].
“They don’t get long off when they go to Brisbane and try kick off here.
“He didn’t have long in the paddock, it is more about their mental state, keeping them fresh.
“His attitude has always been good, he has always enjoyed stable life so from that side of it we are satisfied where things are.”
From there Smerdon is still considering his spring options, aware that the galloper’s Stradbroke Handicap win had boosted his ratings and could make him hard to place.
“We’re open minded with him,” Smerdon said.
“We’re thinking of maybe having a crack at the Manikato if he’s going good enough, but we haven’t locked into anything just yet.”
Smerdon has saddled-up five previous Manikato runners for just the one third place finish, the race won twice in the past three years by the runners-up in the Group 1 A.J. Moir Stakes (1000m) held at the track in late September.
This year the $1 million Group 1 Manikato Stakes (1200m) runs under the lights on Friday October 21 on the eve of Cox Plate Day.
Manikato Stakes nominations close on September 20, 2016 and are expected to feature the likes of Mick Price’s Blue Diamond winner Extreme Choice and the veteran Robert Heathcote-trained super sprinter Buffering.
Buffering has contested the past five editions of the Manikato Stakes including his victory in 2013.
He ran fifth to Chautauqua in last year’s race and has subsequently added the Winterbottom Stakes in Perth and Dubai’s Al Quoz Sprint to his Group 1 winning resume.
The Mossman nine-year-old hasn’t raced since his failed 14th of 14 runners in Hong Kong’s Group 1 Chairman’s Sprint (1200m) at Sha Tin on May 1.
He came back to work in Brisbane at the start of the month and Heathcote is confident the $7.26 million earner has plenty in the tank for another campaign.
“He looks sound and well at this stage,” Heathcote said of “Buff” last week.
“As I keep saying with older horses you take it one day at a time but at the moment I am looking to the spring with him.”