Oratorio’s War Horse!

Avontuur's sensation keeps notching up the international stakes successes

Manawanui bounces back to best with an extraordinary win

Manawanui bounces back to best with an extraordinary win

Manawanui’s medical brief includes bleeding attacks, hamstring problems and arrhythmia, but the patched-up six-year-old ‘s connections never gave up and he rewarded them tenfold with a heart-warming comeback win at Randwick on Saturday.

Winless since The Vase during a Victoria Derby preparation almost three years ago, the former group 1 winner burst through a narrow gap late to gun down Rock Sturdy in the Gr3 3 Bill Ritchie Handicap over 1400 metres first-up.

“It’s been the best ride of my life and the biggest heartbreak of my life,” part-owner Frank Pinta said. “You can’t believe the last three years, we never thought he would race again and to come out and do that … that’s better than winning the Golden Rose.”

It is easy to forget Manawanui won the Golden Rose in 2011 and then went toe-to-toe with Helmet in one of the most stirring Caulfield Guineas finishes in recent memory.

Since then battling trainer Ron Leemon has been tortured with setback after setback, but his patience paid off and connections danced jubilantly when Manawanui sped to victory after a brilliant, rails-hugging ride from Tye Angland.

“It’s a great relief and I’m so pleased for the owners,” Leemon said. “They stuck by him and stuck by me and we put a plan in motion and they haven’t wavered.

“I said to the owners, he is the best horse in this field but I think he is just a little bit soft and underdone, but if we get a soft run we will be there somewhere at the end.

“He was unlucky last spring. I thought the race against Boban, if you look very carefully at it, we ran into second and he was going to chase the leader and his hind leg went on him. He was coming back that time. It’s been 12 months [since then] and it’s paid off for us.”

So bullish about Manawanui’s condition this spring, Leemon had even tentatively pencilled in next weekend’s group 1 Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes at Caulfield as a target. That won’t happen now after Sydney’s recent big wet forced Leemon to skip a Randwick trial with the Oratorio gelding, a winner of seven from 19 and $1.4 million.

But it was evident Manawanui has come back as good as new as Angland parked him behind the leaders and quickened through a split to collar Rock Sturdy, which had sped to the lead down the outside.

The winning margin was a short neck, while Tougher Than Ever came from last to be three lengths further back in third.

Angland said: “What can you say? Just to get him back to the races and for him to do that first-up was a super effort. He’s still got a big 44-gallon drum underneath him to lose a bit of weight, so it was a good effort.”

Rock Sturdy’s trainer, Joe Pride, said he was not surprised Manawanui got the better of his progressive horse late, having seen his ability first-hand at Warwick Farm.

“Everyone’s been aware of Ronny and this horse at Warwick Farm, and it’s a marvellous job to get him back to the races,” Pride said.

The win added more impetus to another terrific week for the Avontuur based Oratorio in both hemispheres, and clicked in his 43rd international stakes winner!

On Wednesday, his 4yo son Tenor won the 1600m Listed Sandown Stakes at Sandown Park in England.

And then on Sunday, the brilliant 4yo Biz The Nurse ran a good second in the 2200m Gr2 Premio Frederico Tesio at San Siro in Italy.

Last year Biz The Nurse became the first 3yo in 27 years to land one of Italy’s premier contests, the Gp1 Gran Premio di Milano.

www.smh.com.au – additional reporting by Sporting Post Editorial Staff

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