Manawanui has not been seen at the races since Caulfield Cup Day last year, but trainer Ron Leemon is eyeing the Group 1 Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield on September 28 with the Group 1 winner.
Manawanui failed to fire in the first two race starts of his 2012 Spring Racing Carnival campaign and he was forced to the spelling paddock prematurely after he injured his hamstring and was found to be suffering from a heart arrhythmia when eight in the Group 3 Moonga Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield on October 19.
The Oratorio gelding was nursed back to full fitness by Leemon during the autumn and he finished a close second behind Cradle Me in a barrier trial over 800 metres at Warwick Farm on April 28 before being sent for another stint in the spelling paddock.
Leemon told TVN that Manawanui was slowly working towards a return to racing, but was happy with the improved physical condition of the rising six-year-old ahead of the 2014 Spring Racing Carnival.
“He was making a run into the race, working into second spot, before he pulled his hamstring, which then caused his heart arrhythmia,” Leemon said.
“He wasn’t extended in the trial and we gave him the hit out so he could pass his ECG test to stewards’ satisfaction.
“He got very big during his break.
“I’ve got 20kg off him but he’s a much bigger racehorse now.
“Even though he’s put on a lot of weight, he looks to have got stronger.”
Manawanui has not recorded a race win since he took out the 2011 edition of the Group 2 Mitchelton Wines Vase (2040m) at Moonee Valley, but Leemon remains confident that the 2011 Golden Rose winner can still be competitive at Group 1 level.
Leemon revealed that he will set Manawanui for a third-up tilt at the Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes and the injury plagued gelding could press on to contest races like the Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) at Flemington on Victoria Derby Day and the Group 1 Emirates Stakes (1600m) at the same venue a week later.
“If he went really well in the Rupert Clarke you could then look at the Emirates Stakes or even the Mackinnon Stakes, if he was looking for a bit further,” Leemon said.
“I believe he’s at his best over 1600 to 2000 metres.”
Manawanui won the Group `1 Golden Rose Stakes (1400m) at Rosehill Gardens and went on to win the Group 2 Stan Fox Stakes (1500m) before finishing a close second behind Helmet in the Group 1 Caulfield Guineas (1600m) during the 2011 Spring Racing Carnival.