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Moonee Valley will be the centre of the horse racing world this weekend but it is not Australasia’s best race, the WS Cox Plate, that is the most attractive event from a punting perspective at the tight track in Melbourne’s north west.
Friday night sees the Manikato Stakes take top billing and the Group One race appears to set up really well for the winner of its 2013 edition, Buffering. What attracts one to Buffering in this year’s Manikato Stakes is a combination of the barrier draw, the speed map and the betting market.
Buffering drew barrier two for the Manikato Stakes and, if his 10 opponents adhere to their regular racing patterns, he ought to get a soft lead around a Moonee Valley circuit that tends to favour runners towards the front. Buffering did not get an easy time on the speed in his comeback race two weeks ago, Ball Of Muscle racing up alongside the veteran gelding and, effectively, ruining the chances of both frontrunners. Buffering performed remarkably well to stick on for fifth place, beaten only 3.2 lengths in spite of his tough run.
There is no Ball Of Muscle in the Manikato Stakes and one expects Buffering to jump out of barrier two, get to the fence and dictate affairs. The Manikato Stakes favourite, Chautauqua, will not bother Buffering in the early stages from his inside gate and, while Capitalist and Fell Swoop may decide to push forward from their barriers, they do not have the early speed to pressurise Robert Heathcote’s star sprinter unless he makes a complete hash of the start.
Buffering has won seven Group One races and it is clear that Moonee Valley is his favourite track with three of his wins at the highest level occurring on it. Moonee Valley has a very short straight in which it is tough for swoopers to make lots of ground and, therefore, it suits pacesetting gallopers such as Buffering. Also, Buffering has won two Winterbottom Stakes at Ascot – not the British circuit associated with the royal family but the one in Perth – another track that features a relatively short straight.
Just one of the four thoroughbreds that beat Buffering in the AJ Moir Stakes – his first race on the comeback trail after he sustained a serious injury five months ago in Hong Kong – will line up in the Manikato Stakes and that is the world’s highest rated sprinter, Chautauqua. All things being equal, Chautauqua ought to win the Manikato Stakes but he is better suited on Flemington’s straight course than Moonee Valley’s twists and turns. Barrier one is a negative for Chautauqua because he will have to go drop back and go around the entire field and he was a touch disappointing when finishing fourth in the AJ Moir Stakes. Only 0.1l separated Buffering and Chautauqua last time out.
Buffering is trading at +1000 with Bet365, William Hill and SkyBet to take out the Manikato Stakes, or another way to back the nine-year-old warrior is to support him in place markets – you should be able to get set at odds greater than +200 , which is superb in view of how the race is likely to pan out tactically.
According to the official handicap ratings, Buffering is the equal second best weighted Manikato Stakes runner so that is another reason why one is surprised to see the grand old stager behind Chautauqua, Capitalist, English, Lucky Hussler, Fell Swoop and Holler with most bookmakers.
Buffering to Win the Manikato Stakes
Friday 21st October, 11:30 GMT
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