Champion colt Sepoy passed his first test at open age in emphatic fashion, demolishing a field containing some of Australia’s top sprinters in the $500,000 Sportingbet Manikato Stakes at Moonee Valley on Friday night.
The Peter Snowden-trained three-year-old made the leap from underage star to unqualified superstar when he combined tenacity and brilliance to street his rivals in the 1200-metre Group 1.
Sepoy’s Blue Diamond-Golden Slipper double was trainer Peter Snowden’s highlight of last season and he was ecstatic to see him rise to another level on an unfavourably slow track at his toughest test to date.
“He’s a great horse and I’m very lucky to have him,” Snowden said. “It was a tremendous win, he did it the hard way, but just showed everyone how good he is.
“I was very worried about the wet conditions, he’d been on a wet track before, it was his only defeat, but he was underdone that day and tonight he was better prepared and the horse went really well.”
Unlike against his rivals his own age, whom Sepoy has bullied for the majority of his career, the son of Elusive Quality was made to work overtime for Friday night’s win.
Jockey Kerrin McEvoy had to dig him up to hold his position on fence after dwelling slightly at the start from barrier one and he was then pressured for 300m by Buffering, who tried desperately to cross to the fence.
Sepoy was afforded around 400m to settle into his rhythm once Buffering couldn’t cross, but he again had to respond rounding the home turn, which led to the most impressive part of his performance.
Despite rivals who had had much easier runs looming ominously just before straightening, Sepoy was still able to call on his trademark brilliance to explode away and take his record to eight wins from nine starts.
At the line the $1.80 favourite had 2.3 lengths to spare over Sister Madly ($17), who stuck on well after racing on Sepoy’s back, while More Joyous ($4) finished the race off solidly for third but was never a factor despite having the run of the race one off the fence in fourth spot.
McEvoy said it was a great effort to win so comfortably given the early work he did.
“He did switch off when I got there which really helped,” McEvoy said. “Buffering really made me work, definitely, but once we hit the first bend and he hadn’t crossed me, he was never going to get in front of me.
“The best part about him is that he’s relaxing now. When you do that early work on him, he can switch off and come back to you, which is what the good horses do. It was a dream ride.”
The strength of Sepoy’s win raised hopes that he may take on Black Caviar in the $1 million Patinack Farm Classic at Flemington on 5 November, but while Snowden didn’t rule it out he said the main aim remained the $500,000 Coolmore Stud Stakes at Flemington on 29 October.
“The reason I’ve always said the Coolmore is the target is because it’s his own age, three-year-olds, and hopefully the boss (Sheikh Mohammed) is here on Derby Day,” Snowden said.
“That’s when the Coolmore is on and that would be the icing on the cake if we could win a Group 1 on the day that he’s there. For me that’s better than beating Black Caviar.”