Underrated galloper Manrico extended his love affair with the Ellerslie racecourse when he posted his third win in his last four starts at the venue on Saturday.
The Stephen Ralph-trained six-year-old has come of age this campaign, winning four of his eight starts since New Year’s Day and banking over $93,000 in prizemoney for Ralph and his partner Melanie Sutton.
The son of Shocking has always appealed as a potential topliner to Ralph, but one that needed time to reach his full potential.
“He’s a lovely horse that we’ve always held an opinion of,” Ralph said.
“He’s finally reached the point where he is a very happy horse and he really is in the zone.
“He has had problems with tying up in the past but we have worked out how to treat and manage that and he is just a good, tough horse that gives his best every time he steps on the track.
“He goes on all sorts of surfaces, dry and wet and he is really starting to develop the formline we thought he was capable of.
“He beat Babylon Berlin at his last start in a really slick time on a tricky track and some people had him pegged as needing good ground, but we have always thought he was better with plenty of cut in the ground and he got that yesterday and delivered for us.”
Ralph also bagged the quinella in the race with stablemate New York Jazz and moved his winning tally for the season to twenty, the best he has achieved since he commenced his training career.
“We’ve had a really good season and although we haven’t won a stakes race, a good percentage of our winners have come at Ellerslie and on a Saturday,” he said.
“That’s where the money is and it definitely makes our stats this year look very good.
“We haven’t really got the firepower to win some of those big races like we did when we had Santa Monica win the Railway (Group 1, 1200m) a couple of years ago, but we have got wins with horses this season that have really deserved it.”
While Ralph is enjoying a successful season, he is also considering an opportunity to relocate his Te Awamutu-based operation to Pukekohe to take up some of the boxes that will be vacated shortly when trainer Nigel Tiley downsizes his operation.
“I don’t think it’s much of a secret that we are looking at an opportunity at Counties at the moment,” he said.
“It’s not a decision that you want to take lightly, so we are taking our time and looking at all the facets involved in the offer put to us by the Counties Racing Club.
“One of the benefits would be the chance to bring my son Dylan into partnership, as he is based up there and that would be a big asset for us.
“We have to look at the logistics involved in it all and once we have done that we will be in a position to make that final decision.”