Star mare Southern Speed (Southern Image) is on track for one of the spring’s major races but Saturday’s victory in the $300,000 Group 2 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) at Flemington did little to determine her path.
Southern Speed’s co-trainers Leon Macdonald and Andrew Gluyas have Southern Speed ticking over perfectly as shown by her narrow win over the unlucky Manighar but have not yet decided on a target for the seven-time winner.
“I think she has gone as well as she has ever come up. He’s a good horse Manighar, isn’t he?” Macdonald said. “We won’t make a decision until after the Underwood (Stakes) but she’s going very well.
“I think you have got to make a decision between a Caulfield Cup and a Cox Plate. It’s pretty hard to go back to a Cox Plate after a Caulfield Cup.”
Star Melbourne rider Craig Williams reunited with Southern Speed after Macdonald and Gluyas’s stable jockey Clare Lindop steered the mare through her first two starts this time in, including a victory in the Listed Penny Edition Stakes (1400m) at her last outing.
A slow early speed allowed Williams to position Southern Speed in fourth spot while Luke Nolen parked Manighar on the mare’s back in the early stages. Williams eased Southern Speed three-wide to improve rounding the home turn while Nolen was stuck in traffic until the 200 metres.
Southern Speed pinched a two-length break on Manighar before Manighar motored home but fell just short of posting a memorable first-up win.
Southern Speed defeated Manighar (Linamix) by a nose while Moudre (Blevic) was another two lengths away in third. The field completed the mile in 1:37.84 on a good (3) track, which included a last 600-metre sectional of 34.56 seconds. Southern Speed started at $4.20 on track but paid $3.90 on the Victorian TAB.
Should Macdonald and Gluyas decide to run Southern Speed in the Cox Plate, Williams would have a tough decision to make after Gai Waterhouse offered him the Cox Plate ride on star three-year-old Pierro (Lonhro). Macdonald said the ball would be in Williams’s court if the clash occurred.
“Rider options are open but it depends on Craig. He’ll have the ride if he wants it,” he said.
Southern Speed’s win was her seventh in 22 starts for her owners – B Perks, A Clough, T Robertson, Mrs E Robertson, R Fairclough and Mrs B Fairclough – and took her prizemoney tally to more than $2.6 million.