Caulfield horseman Ciraon Maher is confident his dual Group 1 winning mare Srikandi can “measure up” when she returns to racing under the lights at Moonee Valley Racecourse Friday evening in the Manikato Stakes.
The now five-year-old daughter of Dubawi hit the headlines during the Queensland Winter Racing Carnival last season with her impressive victories in the Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap (1350m) and the Group 1 Tattersall’s Tiara (1400m), but hasn’t raced since June 20.
She is first-up on Friday night on the back of two smart Cranbourne trials and takes on a field of the nation’s best sprinters in the $1 million Manikato Stakes (1200m).
Srikandi has had just the one run at the notoriously tight Moonee Valley circuit when runner-up over 1000m back in February last year.
Her 1200m form though is far more impressive with the classy mare boasting five wins from her six previous runs at the distance she resumes over this weekend on Cox Plate eve.
A gun when fresh, Srikandi having won two of her three first-up runs to date and crossed second in the other, she is currently one of five single-figure hopes in the all-in Manikato Stakes odds at Ladbrokes.com.au.
Odds-on favourite is the Team Hawkes-trained Chautauqua who looks hard to beat on the back of two outstanding wins this time in with victories in the Group 2 McEwen Stakes (1000m) at the Valley and the Group 2 Gilgai Stakes (1200m) down the Flemington straight from the start of the month.
Maher is well aware of the quality of rivals Srikandi lines-up against in the Manikato, but remains confident she can give the boys a run for their money.
“I wanted to give her a good break and come into this first-up,” Maher told The Age.
“We have been getting her ready but we know we are taking on the big guns. Kerrin [McEvoy] has been on her a couple of time for two group 1 wins and we think she can measure up.”
Kerrin McEvoy rode her to victory in her Group 1 Queensland double in the winter and chases his third Manikato Stakes win this season.
He has had five rides in the classic to date for two wins, a second and a third with his victories being aboard Danleigh (2009) and Sepoy (2011).
Despite occupying the third line of futures betting, the John O’Shea-trained Golden Rose winning Lonhro colt Exosphere will not feature in this year’s Manikato Stakes field.
Instead the Godolphin-raced three-year-old will have a jump out at Flemington before targeting the $500,000 Group 1 Coolmore Stud Stakes (1200m) Saturday week on Victoria Derby Day, October 31, back at the track.
The other headline Manikato Stakes hopefuls this spring include the Joe Pride-trained Terravista coming off a win in Sydney’s Group 2 Premiere Stakes (1200m) and the 2013 winner Buffering who won the Group 1 Moir Stakes (1000m) at Moonee Valley first-up.