Not only is he the most inexperienced pacer at Tabcorp Park Melton on Friday night, outside of Chancellor Cullen in the Gammalite, Manuka Man is perhaps the most untapped horse on the entire program.
He will only be tackling a C2-3 race early on the night but his three starts to date have yielded two impressive victories and a brave second where he had to venture three wide in the last lap.
only acquired the horse through a bit of luck too. A casual conversation with a fellow trainer led to the opportunity to purchase the son of .
“We actually bought him after his first start. I was saying to Geoff Martin that it’s hard to buy good horses in Australia these days and I wouldn’t mind trying to find one that goes half alright,” Vallelonga said.
“A fortnight later he rang me and said I think I might have found a nice horse and he told me a bit about him so I made arrangements to go and drive him and I went over and he felt good so I negotiated the price and I told Luke (Primmer, former trainer) that I’d take him.”
That set the wheels in motion for his second race start, a win at Beckley Park, which was followed by what Vallelonga described as an even better run.
“I thought his second was a better run than his win at Geelong. His times were unreal, being off the track to run home in that time was unheard of,” he said.
“He’s a nice horse in the making; I’ve got a lot of time for him.”
His previous connections also knew he had ability, in fact having just turned five it’s reasonable to think it’s unusual to have had just three starts.
Vallelonga asked the same question of Primmer and was given a surprising answer.
Having jumped on the back of his own hoof as a two-year-old, Manuka Man had to spend six months in the paddock thanks to what his trainer described as “pulling half his foot off.”
But with those issues behind him, the gelding now has to contend with barrier seven in a tricky race.
“It’s all a learning curve, he is still pretty green and he hasn’t done a lot but he does have some gate speed he just hasn’t had the chance to use it,” Vallelonga said.
“It’s a bit tricky whether we can use it this week because I don’t really want to break him early in his career.”
And it’s a career that his conditioner believes can blossom in the coming seasons, for that reason he won’t be pushed this preparation.
With the allure of a summer campaign after he has been given some time out in the paddock the driving force behind the decision.
“He’ll have a short preparation then have a break in the nice spring weather and then we’ll bring him back. He should go through his classes, once he has a spell he might come back that little bit stronger,” Vallelonga said.
“I think he has a nice future; I would actually love to get him to Menangle in some of those heats and finals series because he’ll develop into a horse that can sit on any speed and run home well. He’s so relaxed and casual.”
Manuka Man has been marked a $4 chance by Harness Racing Victoria price assessor Jason Bonnington.
by Blake Redden
Harness racing Victoria