Flag set to fly on firmer footing

INTERNATIONAL sprinter US Navy Flag will emerge from Sydney’s mud a far more lethal competitor in Friday night’s Group 1 Manikato Stakes (1200m), according to TJ Comerford.

Unsuited by Randwick’s bog conditions in The Everest, Aidan O’Brien’s July Cup winner finished ninth of 12.

But the prospect of firm footing at The Valley and barrier two has Comerford upbeat as he prepares to saddle three other runners – Spirit Of Valor, Intelligence Cross and Fleet Review – in the $1 million sprint.

“Slightly disappointing in The Everest but he didn’t get his ground,” Comerford said of US Navy Flag. “He didn’t start well but we jumped him out of the stalls last Monday and he was very good. He should be sharp away in the Manikato.

Irish sprinter US Navy Flag has been well backed to win the Manikato Stakes. Picture: AAPSource:AAP

“He probably has to pick up the pieces again, which I’m hoping he can do.

“He’s definitely going to prefer this better ground, so hopefully he can put things right this Friday night. US Navy Flag has drawn well and you have to make use of your draw, too.

“We jumped him out of the gates here Monday and he was quick away well so it’s fresh in his mind.”

Punters are also expecting an improved showing from the Irish sprinter, who has firmed from $9 to $7 with TAB after bets of $25,000 at $9, $30,000 at $8 and $30,000 at $7.

Nominating US Navy Flag and Spirit Of Valor at the head of the Ballydoyle pecking order, Comerford hopes Fleet Review and Intelligence Cross can lift.

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Horse Racing: Winx’s trainer Chris Waller has ripped into British commentator Matt Chapman, labelling his criticism of Winx as ‘disrespectful’.

But he believes Schillaci Stakes runner-up Spirit Of Valor could give Oisin Murphy a perfect start to The Valley’s banner weekend of racing.

“Spirit Of Valor was a good run in the Schillaci but hopefully he can get a bit of cover, Oisin,” Comerford said. “He ran very well, it was a big run from him.

“At home, he wouldn’t be as good as US Navy Flag but he seems to be turning the corner.

“I wouldn’t discount him.”

Cummings unfazed by wide draw

TRAINER James Cummings has dismissed the wide draw as a factor for a revitalised Kementari in the Manikato Stakes.

Kementari starts from barrier 12 but Cummings would prefer the sprinter is given the opportunity to make an uninterrupted run rather than risk being held up behind runners.

“There looks to be plenty of speed drawn inside. If it does become a swoopers’ race then he won’t be locked away on the inside,’’ Cummings said. “He showed in the Memsie that he’s got a really strong burst and he can sustain pressure from a long way out.

James Cummings is confident Kementari will run a big race in the Manikato Stakes. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

“So I’d rather be five wide on the turn than boxed up on the fence and not getting a run.”

The Manikato Stakes has attracted a quality and capacity field of 14 with Kementari the $5 second favourite in early TAB Fixed Odds betting behind brilliant filly Sunlight at $4.60.

Kementari’s star has dimmed after four consecutive losses this spring but Cummings is optimistic he talented four-year-old can regain Group 1-winning form.

“When we got the horse back to Sydney after the Makybe Diva (Stakes) he was good, but not as good as he can be,’’ Cummings said.

Kementari is among the favourites in the Manikato Stakes. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

“He did really well, he thrived and he bulked up and started looking like the sharp sprinter-miler he was growing into at the end of his three-year-old (season). I’m confident he’s got that strength again and he’s ready to run very, very well as a fresh horse over 1200m.

“Good horses run well at Moonee Valley and he’s one of the best horses we have in the stable. When the pressure goes on genuinely, I think he’ll respond. We’re going to saddle him up on Friday night with a lot of confidence that he’s going to run very well.’’

Originally published as Flag set to fly on firmer footing

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