BEL Sprinter showed he is shaping as one of the stars of the spring carnival after an impressive first-up victory in the group 3 Mitty’s McEwen Stakes at Moonee Valley on Saturday.
With the four finalists in the Australian Champion Sprinter Award absent from the coming carnival, there is a vacancy for a new sprint star.
Training by Mornington’s Jason Warren, Bel Sprinter has been plagued by injury and bad luck after missing the start in two group 1 races last year.
The five year old has recently battled a foot abscess.
“It’s tough bringing horses back from little setbacks. It’s been one small thing after another, not one big thing. It’s just a big relief,” an emotional Warren said.
Importantly for Warren and punters who backed the horse into $2.90, the five year old began cleanly and to the surprise of many settled second, well in front of $2.80 favourite Golden Archer.
Claiming the leader Snitzem upon straightening, Bel Sprinter surged to the line to win in 57.32 seconds — just one-tenth of a second outside Miss Andretti’s track record.
The ever-consistent Platelet ($15) was a half-length back in second, with Snitzem ($26) holding on bravely for third after setting the fast tempo.
“All the work we’ve done on the horse, improving his manners more than anything, that’s worked. It’s just a big thrill,” Warren said.
Winning jockey Ben Melham said the clean getaway was important and allowed the horse — who remains unbeaten in four first up appearances — to show his true colours.
“He’s a horse with a good cruising speed and he can sustain it,” he said.
Warren declared the group 1 $750,000 Sportingbet Manikato Stakes (1200m) at Moonee Valley on Friday night, October 26 as the horse’s primary spring target.
“It’s been my goal all the way through. Moonee Valley suits him,” he said.
Warren will use the group 2 $220,000 Gilgai Stakes (1200m) at Flemington on October 6 as his stepping stone to the Manikato despite stating the horse’s dislike for the straight track.
The victory was the trainer and rider’s first in the McEwen Stakes, which was first run in 1996.