Peter Didham’s impressive form this season continued at Trentham on Saturday, with eye-catching pair Fashion Icon and Manifique staking their claim for black-type opportunities this summer.
The Awapuni horseman recorded his 13th and 14th victories for the season, equalling his total winning record from 2022/23 from just 70 starts.
Didham kicked off the Trentham meeting in style when promising filly Fashion Icon produced her third win in a row as a $2.70 favourite in the Gee & Hickton Funeral Directors Premier (1400m).
A daughter of U S Navy Flag, Fashion Icon had collected her maiden victory at Woodville on October 5 before making her presence known in Rating 65 company when chasing down race-favourite Pepeha to score at Trentham last-start.
Returning to age-group company on Saturday, Michael McNab positioned Fashion Icon comfortably in the one-one once the six-horse field settled into stride, with the pace making role taken up by Bella Corno.
When asked to extend at the top of the long straight, the filly moved to the lead, and kept finding late, holding out the late challenge of Tossuforit by a long neck.
“I was really confident, her work had been outstanding and it wasn’t really a concern going 1200m to 1400m, but it’s still there,” Didham said.
“Michael rode her beautifully, cuddled her up and just waited on the turn and went, and when the other horse came up she fought on. She’s one of those horses that I’m not sure how much class she’s got, but she just puts her ears back and tries hard.
“She’s always in for a dogfight, you saw in her last start, a three-year-old winning a Rating 65. Pepeha had her covered but she stuck her nose out and beat him. She’s a really lovely filly going forward and we’re really excited about her.”
Also part of the ownership group, Didham had intended to step the filly into stakes company last Saturday in the Listed Fillies Stakes (1340m) at Wanganui, but a minor setback put that plan on hold.
“We were going to run last week in the fillies’ race but she had a little toothache, and nothing was lining up for a rider, so we just cancelled that, went to Plan B and it worked out,” he said.
“I think she will (contest black-type), we lease her off the Bax’s (breeders) and we’re always trying to do the best for everybody.”
McNab had a red-letter day at Trentham, securing four victories on the card which included guiding both of Didham’s winners, alongside the Cody Cole-trained La Verite, and Robbie Patterson’s mare The Hottie.
“She’s (Fashion Icon) just a really genuine little filly. I got a nice run, she picked up really well and was doing enough, and when she felt the other one coming she went again. For not an overly big filly, she’s got a really nice way of going about her,” McNab said.
“She conserves energy well in the race outside the leader, she never touched the bridle and when I asked her to pick up, she picked up well.
“I can’t see why not (contest black-type) off what I felt today, she’s won three in a row which is not easy to do. She’s stepped up today and all you can do is keep raising the bar and seeing what she wants to do.”
Not to be outdone by her younger stablemate, progressive mare Manifique stormed to an 8-1/2 length demolition in the Stayers Championship Qualifier Premier (2200m) later in the card.
Manifique was a dominant 4-1/2 length victor at Taranaki last start over 2000m, and punters had full faith in a repeat performance at Trentham betting the mare into a scorching $1.80.
As several of the 10-horse field chased the lead, McNab settled Manifique into a comfortable midfield position one-off-the-fence outside of second public-elect King Of Hearts.
He No Opilio increased the tempo at the 800m creating a solid staying test, and as the field rounded the home turn Manifique cruised into contention under minimal pressure.
After swooping to the lead at the 400m, Manifique was in a class of her own bolting away by an extending margin that continued beyond the winning post, while $41 outsider Pep Torque held out King Of Hearts to fill the minor placings.
“That’s the pedigree coming out now, and it’s really exciting,” Didham said.
“He (McNab) just put her to sleep and when he said go he didn’t even have to touch her, so it’s super good. I didn’t expect it by that margin, it was a reasonable field and we were going from Rating 75 to Open grade so it was really good.”
Didham indicated Manifique would likely be heading for the Group 3 Manawatu Cup (2300m) back at Trentham in two weeks’ time, with further distance options in mind including a current nomination for the Group 3 Queen Elizabeth II Cup (2400m) in January.
“She ran 2400m at the end of her campaign last year and she handled it really well, and Michael’s always said she’s a Cups horse,” he said.
“There’s not a lot of her so we just have to be careful with which weights we get, that’s why I went for the Open because I didn’t want her carrying 58kg in a 75.”
Manifique is out of Peter Gillespie’s four-time Group 1-winning mare Shez Sinsational, who under Allan Sharrock’s care collected 12 victories from 1200m-3200m, including the Group 1 Auckland Cup (3200m), and more than $1.4 million in stakes.
“She (Manifique) might be another year away (from an Auckland Cup), she just taken her time and hasn’t had a lot of starts but we’re very happy,” Didham said.
Shez Sinsational continued to perform in her breeding role after retiring to stud in 2013, with her first foal being Sharrock’s five-time black-type winning mare Sinarahma.
Manifique followed a couple of seasons on, the daughter of Savabeel a $420,000 purchase by Glen Cotterill out of Wellfield’s Book 1 draft at the 2020 Karaka Yearling Sales, with breeders Gillespie and Bill Gleeson remaining in the ownership.
“Peter Gillespie, Glen Cotterill and Bill Gleeson are such good owners but they don’t just race horses, they punt, they breed and they’re the heart and soul of racing that we need, so it’s really good to get a top liner for them,” Didham said.
A full-brother to Manifique will be available for purchase at the upcoming 2024 Karaka Yearling Sales in late January, with Rich Hill Stud offering the colt under Lot 401 of the Book 1 draft.