That’s the local horse, Light Up Manhattan, number 8 right there in the blue and yellow, flashing into the picture near the winning post at Flemington last Saturday, just missing a place in the 160th Victoria Derby and finishing fourth. It was an unfortunate result but a performance that may yet have a silver lining if the promising young stayer goes on and runs in next year’s Melbourne Cup.
SIGNOFF, Lucia Valentina, Admire Rakti, Protectionist and Mutual Regard… it doesn’t really matter how they finish this year.
The 2014 Emirates Melbourne Cup might be the race that stops a nation but it has already lost its usual lustre for a group of local racehorse owners.
After the running of the Victoria Derby last Saturday, when their horse, Light Up Manhattan, flashed home for a hugely meritorious fourth placing, they are already daring to dream about next year.
And with good reason – they have a potential Melbourne Cup winner on their hands!
“I’ve been involved with a few other horses over the years, some that have had city runs before, and I know how hard it is to keep them sound but yes, he’s got the potential to be a Melbourne Cup horse for sure.
“You’ve got to have a lot of luck but we’re definitely looking forward to next year now,” said part owner, Terry Ginnane.
Together with his workmates at Landmark in Leongatha; John Bowler, Stan Alger, Brian McCormack, Kevin Clark and Tom Brown; Terry owns a small share in the horse but it’s more than enough for them to be living the dream of having a potential cup runner… and even a cup winner.
The truth of it is though that everything didn’t go quite to plan in the running of the time-honoured, $1.5 million Victoria Derby last Saturday, the first real distance test for three year old colts and fillies, over 2500 metres.
Light Up Manhattan had shown more than enough in his seven starts, over shorter distances, but especially in track work, to indicate he would certainly get the distance.
“He did well in some of those races, especially the fourth place in the Caulfield Classic, but he was always set for just one race, the derby,” said Terry.
“After what he’d shown, we thought he had a real chance to maybe even win it.”
The horse was drawn well in barrier seven, right alongside the eventual winner Preferment, but unlike the Chris Waller trained colt, Light Up Manhattan went backwards after jumping midfield, and much to the surprise of the local owners dropped out to last.
“To draw the barrier he did and to get that far back in the running was very disappointing.
“He just kept losing places at the beginning and went back to last.
“He certainly didn’t show it in the preparation at all but we thought he mustn’t have been up to it.”
Terry has since watched the replay dozens of times and can’t believe the way the race panned out.
“He just shouldn’t have been that far back.
“The jockey knew he was a bit of a slow starter and that he needed to get him moving but that didn’t happen.
“After he got that far back, he would have needed a miracle to get through the traffic.”
That’s very nearly what happened. Having started poorly, the jockey Mark Zahra saved a lot of ground on the turn, to give him his due, but had to make a number of attempts to find clear air in the straight.
It ultimately cost Light Up Manhattan and the owners plenty.
When he finally did get into the clear, the horse rocketed home.
In fact he was finishing better than the three horses in front of him; Preferment, Bondeiger and Nozomi, who just pipped him for third on the line.
“It would have been a much better result for everyone if he’d just got third,” said Terry.
“But that’s racing.
“He’ll go out for a rest now and they’ll look at bringing him back in during the autumn and going to Sydney, with the AJC Derby the main target, and the Rosehill Guineas.
“He’s really still only a two year old. He hasn’t had his birthday yet.”
As everyone knows, the racehorses’ birthday is August 1 and the trick is to try and get them born in the next month or two after August 1 so they have as much time to develop as possible before they come up against young horses their own age in the two and three year old events.
Not so Light Up Manhattan.
He was born a couple of months late, on November 15, 2011 and hadn’t had his real third birthday by Derby Day which can make a difference.
It doesn’t matter so much what month they were born as they get older but it’s a huge factor in the young age group races.
Although a horse can perform well when it is younger, there’s no guarantee they’ll continue to shine as a mature horse so it will be fingers crossed for Terry and his mates until the autumn.
“It was a huge thrill to have a horse in a race like the Victoria Derby. It was unbelievable but we really thought we had a chance and the way he finished we definitely did.
“But we still had great day and we went out with the other owners and celebrated. Having an experience like that and sharing it with some other great people is what it’s all about.”
The horse, which started at between 30-1 and 25-1, won $67,500 for finishing fourth, almost doubling its stakes winnings to date; funds that will help pay expenses including entry fees and training costs.
It was the locals’ meat industry connections that got them into the horse in the first place.
Colin McKenna, the well-known owner of Midfield Meats at Warrnambool, invited them to take a share and the rest is history.
All the local owners got together in a packed mounting yard before the race at Flemington on Saturday, the biggest day on the Australian turf calendar, and enjoyed the thrill of having a runner in such a prestigious race.
They gathered together in the owners’ and trainers’ enclosure to watch it all unfold, ultimately seeing the jockey’s blue and yellow colours flash towards the leading group but just fail to catch them.
It was certainly the run of the race and local racing enthusiasts would do well to put the name, Light Up Manhattan, in their little black books for an autumn flutter and hopefully the ultimate in the Melbourne Cup next year.
Owning a racehorse, together with friends, that wins a race, any race, has got to be one of life’s great thrills but one can only imagine what it must be like to have a runner in the greatest race of them all – the Melbourne Cup.
Six local blokes and their families have just embarked on that journey and it may be that we’ll be taking a whole lot more interest in the running of the 2015 Melbourne Cup than the one that’s being run later today.