REBEL Dane sent shock waves throughout Moonee Valley when the long shot won the Group 1 Manikato Stakes on Friday night.
All of the attention was on $2.25 favourite Chautauqua which was touted as the best sprinter in the world, but it was Rebel Dane ($51 at CrownBet) which again showed that form behind champion mare Winx is the best form in the land.
The seven-year-old finished third behind Winx in the Warwick Stakes at Randwick, but punters didn’t want to touch it in the Manikato Stakes.
Jockey Ben Melham scored another big win after taking out the Group 1 Metropolitan Handicap in Sydney and he again showed why he’s riding in career-best form.
“It was a great win. He deserved to win another Group one this horse, he’s a had a few go’s at it,” Melham said. “Good to see him come here today and win with good authority.”
Melham used his initiative and cut the corner as race leader Buffering left the rails around the home turn. Melham darted to the inside with Rebel Dane and went toe-to-toe with Fell Swoop over the final 100m.
“He broke pretty well. He travelled well at the corner, he really let down with a good bit of dash,” Melham added.
Winning trainer Gary Portelli wasn’t shocked with the result, but it’s fair to say the Warwick Farm-based trainer didn’t expect to win.
“There’s hope for us all,” Portelli said. “Great team effort by our staff, taking him down to the beach and over some hurdles.
“I said he’s gotta have a go at this race and here we are in the winners circle. Massive price, I hope you had something on.”
Rival jockeys appeared reluctant to take the rails run, but Portelli believes there’s nothing wrong with the inside part of the track.
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the fence,” Portelli said. “He (Ben Melham) must of thought he had some horse when he cut the corner, it was a great effort.”
Portelli will be back in Sydney for racing at Randwick on Saturday, but he’s not looking forward to the early flight back.
“That 9am flight is looking a bit ordinary tomorrow,” he quipped.
Fell Swoop had to settle for another Group one minor placing, but it lost no admirers and trainer Matthew Dale is looking forward to running it down the Flemington straight later this spring.
“Super proud of him,” Dale said. “I still think in autumn you’ll see a better horse. If he comes through this alright we’ll run him in the Darley. He’ll most likely go there in two weeks time.
“He’s a $45,000 purchase and he’s taken us on a ride of our lives.”
Fell Swoop has firmed into $11 at CrownBet for the 2016 Darley Classic on November 5 at Flemington.
Chautauqua was again disappointing having finished fourth in the Group 1 Moir Stakes last start. The champion sprinter settled back as expected, but failed to make any ground until very late in the race.
Co-trainer Wayne Hawkes wasn’t making excuses for his runner which was heavily backed in the market.
“He got back tonight and other horses were going past him in the straight,” Hawkes said.
“No excuses, he was disappointing. I really don’t know. Honestly, I thought he had improved heaps from the other night. Anyway, it is what it is, he’ll bounce back.”
The sad news out of the Manikato Stakes was the retirement of Buffering which failed to sustain a slick pace in front.
The nine-year-old champion was a winner of 20 races which included a win in Dubai and trainer Robert Heathcote made the announcement following the race.
“As sad as I am for Buff, it’s time to move on,” Heathcote said.