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Unorthodox campaign no worries for Manolo

photo: Trish Dunell

photo: Trish Dunell

The unusual racing career of New Zealand bred, Australian owned colt Manolo Blahniq continues at Rosehill on Saturday as the well-travelled galloper tackles champion two-year-old Capitalist in the Group 3 San Domenico Stakes.

By his own admission, trainer Tony Noonan doesn't mind trying new methods when it comes to preparing his horses, which goes a long way to explaining why Manolo Blahniq began his career in New Zealand, has had four "trainers" so far, has visited two Australian states, and is yet to set foot in his home base at Noonan's Mornington stables.

"I know it doesn't seem the most straightforward career so far but it has made sense to me as it has unfolded," Noonan told G1X.com.au.

Noonan bought the son of former Kiwi star Jimmy Choux for $115,000 at the New Zealand Select Yearling Sale but left him with friend and former top jumps jockey Craig Thornton to train.

"Craig looked after (Hiskens Steeplechase winner) Logician for me when I sent the horse to America. He's a fantastic horseman. We wanted to target the Karaka Million with Manolo Blahniq and Craig did a wonderful job getting the horse educated and to the race," Noonan said.

Noonan watched on as an owner as his friend coaxed the colt to a stunning 3.5-length G3 win in the Eclipse Stakes at Ellerslie before failing as a $1.90 favourite three weeks later in the Karaka Million.

"He pulled up shin sore," Noonan explained.

Rather than bring the horse to Mornington to spell and prepare for the spring carnival, Noonan sent Manolo Blahniq to Queensland and in the care of trainer Kelly Purdy.

"Kelly did some early work with the horse and made sure he had done well during his break. I've known Kelly for a while. She used to be a jockey, and we had success sending horses to her before. We sent her Quicksilver Lass for a winter prep last year and she got a win out of her," Noonan said. After Purdy it was down to Warwick Farm and the stable of Todd Rawiller as Manolo Blahniq began to increase the workload ahead of a return to the track.

"Todd used to work for me and I had no hesitation in giving him the horse to look after in Sydney. He's thrived at Warwick Farm," he added.

From New Zealand, to Queensland, to Warwick Farm - but why?

"Both Kelly and Todd are very talented trainers but they lack opportunities. If either of them was looking for a job, I'd have them working at my place in no time. I guess it's an example of the changing face of training. Trainers are happy to delegate and bring in other people to pre-train or do specialist work with their horses, in this case they (Thornton, Purdy, Rawiller) have all added something to him (Manolo Blahniq)," said Noonan."

And that something that has been added is translating to improvement on the training track according to his official trainer.

"The horse has improved so much in the last two to three months. Tuesday was the first piece of fast work I've seen him do since New Zealand and I was absolutely thrilled," Noonan said.

"I've been really happy with his two trials and although Saturday is far from his grand final I expect him to run really well."

While Manolo Blahniq's career to date has been complicated, Noonan will take a simple approach to his spring preparation - the colt will progress from the San Domenico on Saturday to the 1200m G2 Run To The Rose on August 27, then the 1400m G1 Golden Rose on September 10, before heading to Melbourne for the 1600m G1 Caulfield Guineas on October 8. - G1X


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