Manikato likely to be reinvented due to the impact of The Everest

The Manikato Stakes is likely to get a shake-up after The Everest yet again left Moonee Valley with the second-tier sprinters for one of its most coveted sprint races.

Moonee Valley Racing Club chief executive Michael Browell says the club has a number of options to explore, having gained enough evidence over the five years since the introduction of The Everest that the two races can’t co-exist in the same window.

Jonker, ridden by Daniel Moor, wins the Manikato Stakes at Moonee Valley on Friday night.Credit:Getty Images

The Everest has become a phenomenon for Sydney, attracting the best sprinters in the land courtesy of a $15 million prize pool.

The lucrative race, a brainchild of Peter V’landys, has even seen Moonee Valley’s group 1 Moir Stakes performers – such as Wild Ruler and The Inferno – poached by slot holders to run in the Sydney race, rather than take the traditional route into the Manikato.

The Manikato hasn’t always been run the night before the Cox Plate, though, and one obvious option would be to move the Moir Stakes earlier in the calendar to Feehan Stakes day, and then run the Manikato in the current Moir Stakes spot on AFL Grand Final eve.

The club would then have to find a suitable race to hold up its Cox Plate eve card, but the $1 million Moonee Valley Gold Cup – which was boosted from $500,000 to seven figures this spring – could be the right race to feature as a Melbourne Cup lead-up.

But Browell wouldn’t be drawn on the most likely reshape of the carnival.

“We’ll do a thorough debrief after the Flemington carnival and then work with Racing Victoria to see where it sits,” Browell said.

The Manikato hasn’t always been a Cox Plate eve feature, though.

In 2010 and 2011, when Black Caviar was making a mess of the sprinting ranks, she raced in a group 2 Moir Stakes [then Schweppes Stakes] over 1200 metres on Cox Plate day, as her final lead-up to the VRC Sprint [then Patinack Farm Classic] on Stakes day.

Hey Doc won the Manikato in 2020.Credit:Racing Photos

The Moir Stakes became a group 1 in 2013 and the club moved it to AFL grand final eve and changed the distance to 1000 metres in 2015, and made the Manikato the natural progression and feature of Cox Plate eve.

The Everest, however – scheduled to run in Sydney a fortnight after the NRL grand final – has become a beast of its own, decimating the Manikato. This year’s field had just one group 1 winner in it – Savatoxl, who failed to finish in the top half of the field.

“[The Manikato] has floated in the last 10 years, but The Everest coming in has been a massive game-changer,” Browell said.

“You’d have to say The Everest is here to stay. They’ve invested that much money in it, and it’s become the centrepiece of their carnival. I didn’t get a chance to tune into The Invitational on the weekend, so I don’t know how that went – more focus for us was on the [Cox Plate] protest hearing.

“I’m not sure what Racing Australia thinks it can do to try and broker an outcome where we end up with a more optimal program between Sydney and Melbourne over the spring carnival.”

The states are still yet to meet around a Racing Australia board table, but a review of the Australian racing pattern remains a major priority of Racing Australia’s chairman John Messara.

Meanwhile, Browell said the Cox Plate delivered a trifecta worthy of a world-class 2000-metre race and he hoped State Of Rest might take up the challenge next year to defend his title.

“We need him to be more of the Highland Reel-type than the Adelaide-type, who stayed here with [Chris] Waller and had one start and broke down,” Browell said.

“He’s a horse that’s on the up, definitely. We’d love to see the defending champion return.

“I saw the $20 million Saudi Cup might be on the agenda, but whether he goes to Hong Kong, or Dubai next year, it will be fascinating to see where he goes.”

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