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Manikato win continues Japanese dream

5 min read
Australian Bloodstock's brave investment into the Japanese market yielded more Group 1 success in Friday's Manikato S.

Brave Smash (Jpn) (Tosen Phantom {Jpn}) further franked Australian Bloodstock's decision to invest in Japanese imports after collecting a second Group 1 in the Ladbrokes Manikato S. at Moonee Valley on Friday night.

In what could prove a massive weekend for Hugh Bowman, the champion jockey gave the 6-year-old import a perfect run, allowing him to surge late over the top of Aidan O'Brien's Spirit of Valor (USA) (War Front {USA}), with Kementari (Lonhro) flying home late for third.

The decision to invest in Japanese horses has paid enormous dividends for Australian Bloodstock, who had already tasted dual Group 1 glory last year with trainer Darren Weir thanks to Tosen Stardom (Jpn). Brave Smash, having won the G1 Futurity S. earlier this year, now adds a valuable 1200m G1 success to his resume.

"They said he wasn't good enough, but now he's a Group 1 winner over six furlongs having won the Futurity already." - Australian Bloodstock's Jamie Lovett

The purchase of Brave Smash, a horse who had raced in a Japan Derby, to race as a sprinter in Australia raised a few eyebrows at the time. However, Australian Bloodstock's data on the horse put him at an elite level and they backed him to perform in the toughest sprinting market in the world.

Australian Bloodstock's Jamie Lovett was extremely proud after Friday's win.

"Everyone was potting the horse. They said he wasn't good enough, but now he's a Group 1 winner over six furlongs having won the Futurity already," he said.

"That's a huge buzz. It really is. It was obviously questionable whether he's a Group 1 six-furlong horse, but not anymore. He's a weapon."

The win will add significantly to his value as a stallion, and with Tosen Stardom already standing at Woodside Park this year, Australian Bloodstock's breeding interests are about to grow even more.

Getting it right

Coming off a slightly disappointing run in The Everest, where he struggled on the heavy track and only finished eighth, the decision was made by Weir to apply blinkers to Brave Smash to sharpen him up and allow him to settle closer to the pace.

"You get it wrong a lot but we got it right tonight." - Darren Weir

Hugh Bowman and Darren Weir following their win in the G1 Manikato

"The plan was to put the blinkers on in the Everest, but Hughie said he didn’t think he'd need them. I thought he'd need them tonight to try and get into the right spot and be sharp enough," Weir said.

"You get it wrong a lot but we got it right tonight."

Bowman, who takes the ride on Winx (Street Cry {Ire}) on Saturday in her bid to win her fourth G1 Cox Plate, did everything right, getting Brave Smash into a three-wide trail on the back of Spirit of Valor and then presenting him with a perfectly timed run to win narrowly.

"I was so happy with him in the Moir S., he ran a hell of race there." - Hugh Bowman

"I was so happy with him in the Moir S., he ran a hell of race there. The 1000m was a bit short for him. Darren has been able to train him for the distance and it’s paid dividends, because he is now a 1200m Group 1 winning entire," Bowman said.

A great association

It was particularly satisfying for Weir, who has had a long relationship with Lovett and Luke Murrell.

"We’ve had a great association but the last six months, things just haven't gone right. But they never whinge, they just stick solid. They'll find more of these types of horses too. They are great to deal with."

Jamie Lovett and Hugh Bowman

It was a 34th Group 1 victory for the trainer, whose achievements grow by the week. On Friday, he had the extra satisfaction of edging out a horse trained by one of the world's greatest trainers in Aidan O'Brien.

"We don’t get that very often, so we’ll take what we can get."

"We don’t get that very often, so we’ll take what we can get." - Darren Weir

TJ Comerford, representing the Irish trainer, was full of praise for Spirit of Valor, who endured a tough run three deep on the pace, and loomed as the winner, only to be run down late.

"He's done it well from the bad draw. He got into it very early and he got across," he said.

"Maybe from a better draw, he might have been able to make better use of him. But it was a great ride and a great run and Aidan is very happy. Bringing a sprinter here is not easy and he's improved from his last run."

Connections celebrating a win in the Manikato S.

It was a tough night for O'Brien's other three runners. U S Navy Flag (USA) (War Front {USA}) was slow to gather pace and was never in a winning position after that, while Intelligence Cross (USA) (War Front {USA}) missed the start badly. They would finish last and second last, while Fleet Review (USA) (War Front {USA}) was trapped four-wide throughout and finished ninth.

Kementari, dropping back from 1600m to 1200m, sat second last throughout and came widest of all on the bend, charging home for third, just 0.7l from the winner, with Spright (Hinchinbrook) was close-up in fourth, backing up her excellent third in the Moir S.

Pre-race favourite Sunlight (Zoustar) didn’t jump as expected and found herself in a difficult position. She was shuffled back on the turn and had no winning chance, eventually finishing seventh.