With just seven weeks until the Golden Slipper, trainer Michael Freedman is hoping his Gimcrack Stakes winner Manaal can show him she’s a worthy contender for the $5 million classic when she resumes at Rosehill on Saturday.
The filly takes her place in the Group 3 $250,000 Widden Stakes (1100m), a race Freedman has won twice with Queen Of The Ball two years ago (in partnership with Richard) and Teaspoon in 2017.
Freedman is keeping an open mind when it comes to how Manaal may get to the Slipper and that’s something which will become clearer through the weekend.
“I always approach the autumn with no specific targets,’’ Freedman said.
“She’s one we’re hoping will measure up to the Golden Slipper and Saturday is that first step.
“It’s a bit of a cliché but you take it one run at a time, see how she goes there and how she comes out of it and plan from there.”
Manaal, $5.50 with TAB on Wednesday, is on the $34 line in TAB’s Golden Slipper all-in market despite her strong Gimcrack win at the end of September.
As you’d expect, the filly has developed with a spring break under her belt and Freedman has been pleased with her barrier trials leading into her return.
In the latest she finished a length behind Prost, who is early favourite for the Canonbury at Rosehill, and the unbeaten Shangri La Express on January 22.
“Early indications would suggest she’s come back a better physical specimen but until you line up against the other fillies and two-year-olds there’s a bit of guesswork,’’ he said.
“She’s had a nice build up and she’s ready to go. While she’s ready to go she’s by no means screwed right down.
“She’s hopefully got a reasonable autumn ahead of her and some bigger targets if she looks like she can measure up to that level.
“Under the set weights and penalties she’s at a bit of a disadvantage against the other fillies but I guess she’s earned that with a win in the Gimcrack.”
What is keeping Freedman on the conservative side when it comes to expectations of a first-up win is Manaal’s near outside barrier around the Rosehill chute course.
She came from off the pace to win the Gimcrack, though that was midfield from barrier three, so the trainer can only hope the race is run to suit those looking to sweep home.
“I think she’s going to have to be ridden a little conservatively which over the 1100m at Rosehill is probably not ideal,’’ he said.
“It can be hard to make ground and I’ve been the beneficiary of it with the likes of Teaspoon and Queen Of The Ball.
“If I could see her making up some nice ground late in the race and looking like she’s going to enjoy getting out over further that’ll be good enough for me.”
Meanwhile, more of Freedman’s autumn team are nearing their returns with Mumbai Muse set to have her second trial at Rosehill on Monday before a likely first-up run in the Light Fingers Stakes.
Talented three-year-old Moravia is due to resume on Saturday week in the Eskimo Prince Stakes while Queen Of The Ball and Hip Hip Hurrah may kick off in Melbourne.
– Racing NSW