Top jumps jockey says Manhattan Street’s a real dude - but can he stay? We’ll soon find out
For top jumps jockey Shaun Fannin, there’s only one question left for Manhattan Street to answer when he debuts over hurdles on Thursday.
Will he stay?
For when Manhattan Street lines up in the second race at Awapuni it won’t be any inability as a jumper that lets him down.
“He’s a real dude,” says Fannin, “And he has been since day one when I first popped him over a few fences at the end of March.
“He measures his fences, he’s quick over them and he jumps quite flat, which is what you want in a hurdler.
“And he never tries to run off, and there’s not too many you can say that about. It’s like he’s been doing it all his life.”
For Manhattan Street, however, jumping is his last chance to resurrect a career which started out in spectacular style but spluttered out almost as quickly.
When he won his first three starts as a two-year-old, culminating in a six and a half length win in the Ryder Stakes, the feature winter sprint, the sky looked the limit.
And when he resumed as a three-year-old and it took Highlad to pip him half a head in the Wanganui Guineas, trainer Lisa Latta packed him off to Australia where he finished last in the Group II Stutt Stakes at Moonee Valley.
Whatever happened to Manhattan Street stayed with him and it’s been an uphill battle for Latta ever since - he’s won just once from 22 subsequent starts.
For the now rising six-year-old, jumping was the last chance saloon but, incredibly, Fannin knew from the first time the horse rose off the ground that he had something.
“He loves jumping. He jumps beautifully and can jump pretty much anything.”
It just remains to be seen, says Fannin, whether a horse who has only ever won over 1200 metres can last 2750 metres.
“But in his favour is that he doesn’t pull - he’s very relaxed.”
Manhattan Street has had one jumping trial at Hawera when Fannin says he performed in terrific style.
“We went two and a half rounds inside the course, which must have been at least 3000 metres, and he went great. There were six in the heat and he sat in behind them.
“It was good to get him in behind other horses and he handled it well. The ground was really heavy that day as well.”
Fannin says with his ability to handle very wet ground, Manhattan Street will be helped by the expected heavy 11 footing on Thursday - all three of his two-year-old wins were in heavy 11 conditions.
Fannin checked out the footing at Awapuni this morning when he took the horse for a make or break school - and came back mightily impressed.
“We went near raceday pace and he jumped super and pulled up a treat.”
Unlike his flat racing - he’s run down the track three times this campaign - Fannin says you couldn’t say Manhattan Street doesn’t want to be there when there are hurdles in front of him.
“It won’t be his fitness or his jumping that lets him down. He’s on his home course, which he’s jumped round, and he’s done a fair bit of work now.
“He’s got all bases covered but it will simply be a question of whether he can quicken again after jumping the last down the back. He might feel the pinch.
“It all comes down to whether he stays and, if he does, I can’t see why he won’t be a big show. But we’re all hoping more than confident.”
In Fannin, Latta has the right man for the job. A hugely skilled rider, he is a former jumps premiership winner and lies second on this season’s list with 13 wins.
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Wednesday at Hastings