Manaal Eyes A Champagne Moment To Cap Stellar Season

She’s the last one standing going into the final leg of the two-year-old Triple Crown and trainer Michael Freedman hopes Manaal can cap a stellar season with a second Group 1 win in Saturday’s $1m Moet & Chandon Champagne Stakes (1600m).

Trainer Michael Freedman (Pic: Bradley Photos).

Manaal won the Gimcrack right back on September 30 and has proven to be as durable as she has been competitive – she’s the only horse to contest all three legs of the Triple Crown.

She finished a luckless fifth in the Golden Slipper third-up before backing it up with a last stride win in the Inglis Sires’ and Freedman says he’s seen nothing to say a mile won’t be beyond her powers.

It was a comprehensive Sires’ win, she was last of the nine runners at the 600m and reeled off 35.51 (Punter’s Intelligence) for that final sectional in heavy ground to nail Traffic Warden on the line.

“On pedigree you would suggest it would be her outer limit and when she comes back in the spring as a three-year-old we’ll see how it pans out,’’ Freedman said.

“I’d be surprised if she got any further than that.

“She’s drawn a nice enough gate, good rider on, and hopefully she can run out a strong mile.

“The smaller field doesn’t make them any easier to win. She gives the indication that she can run it but you never know until you try.”

Given that, what is it about Manaal that tells Freedman she’ll again be strong stretching out to 1600m for the first time?

“The fact she relaxes nicely in her races,’’ he said.

“In the Slipper, where she drew, we were forced to ride her back there and then in the Sires’ the barrier determined where we had to ride her.

“Once she gets into a nice rhythm she seems to relax and for any horse, in particular a young horse, that’s important. It gives me encouragement she can run it out.”

Jason Collett was due to partner Manaal again but injury has forced him onto the sidelines and Jamie Kah picks up the mount in the Champagne, where she was $2.30 with TAB on Wednesday.

As Freedman mentioned, barriers have forced Collett’s hand in both the Slipper and the Sires’ but Kah will have more options having drawn four of eight.

“There’s a couple of likely on pacers then you’d probably find a spot behind them but in a field of eight you’re not going to be too far away wherever you are,’’ he said.

“She’s been really good the past 10 days, she’s been nice and bright and I was really happy with her work on Tuesday morning. I think she goes into Saturday in pretty good nick.”

Freedman said he’ll likely roll the dice with Resistible in the Midway Handicap (1400m) despite coming up with the outside barrier of 22 in a big field that contains seven emergencies.

He said the mare’s first-up win at Wyong showed she’s come back in good order and while you’d always prefer an inside gate he feels given her pattern it’s something she could overcome.

“I’m really happy with her and picked this race out a while ago for her as a second-up option,’’ Freedman said.

“It’s not ideal to draw out there but she has nice gate speed and the ability to roll forward in her races. Her natural racing style is a reasonably bold going type of mare.”

– Racing NSW

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