Manikato: Racing Legend

Manikato Champion Race Horse

When the subject turns to sprinters, one noteworthy example is an Australian native, Manikato.

Along with being named Australian Horse of the Year for the 1978-79 season, Manikato was the second Australian horse to produce over $1 million in stakes money.

Manikato, foaled in 1975, he was the product of sire Manihi and dam Markato. Her sire was the USA's Natural Bid. Further back, the line included connections to Heroic, Ajax and Gainsborough. Representing what turned out to be a phenomenal bargain, Manikato was purchased for a mere $3500.

Manikato Racehorse

Manikato's Racing Career

Manikato first ran as a two-year-old in 1978. Those initial efforts and those concluding the season where he competed as a three-year-old included no less than four group 1 victories, the Blue Diamond Stakes, the Invitation Stakes, the Caulfield Guineas and the prestigious Golden Slipper Stakes. His wins for 1978 also includes the Ascot Vale Stakes.

1979 saw equally worthwhile production, including a C. F. Orr Stakes, a Freeway Stakes and the William Reid Stakes, all group 2 races at the time that have since achieved group 1 status.

That season Manikato also produced true group 1 wins in the Futurity Stakes and the Rothmans 100,000.

1980 produced four victories. A second William Reid Stakes, a repeat in the C. F. Orr Stakes, both at group 2 level and group 1 victories in the George Ryder Stakes and a repeat in the Futurity Stakes. Manikato's dominance of the William Reid Stakes continued in 1981 making him seem near invincible at 1200 metres. The C. F. Orr Stakes and another Futurity Stakes fell to him before the second month of the year had passed.

Manikato's confirmation caused the horse to experience some difficulties with his legs and other health issues as well conspired to require a spell that lasted 28 weeks.

When Manikato returned in September, jockey Roy Higgins and Manikato added the Queen Elizabeth Cup, where they established a course record, to the tally.

Manikato also set track records in winning the Doomben 10,000 and the George Rider stakes. He had eight starts in 1982, all with Gary Willetts aboard. This season produced the fourth consecutive William Reid Stakes, a victory in the weight for age Memsie Stakes, the A.J. Moir Stakes, Canterbury Stakes and Freeway Stakes. A brief let up of 13 weeks took the calendar to 1983 for Manikato's last four runs. An unprecedented fifth William Reid Stakes and fourth Futurity Stakes provided the capstone for one of the greatest sprinters Australia has ever produced.

Manikato finished having one over half his starts. Twenty-nine wins, eight seconds and five thirds from 47 starts with only five unplaced is in envious mark by standard.

Manikato contracted a virus soon after retiring in 1983. Unable to recover, he was euthanized in early 1984 and buried within sight of the finish line at Moonee Valley Racecourse, site of some of his greatest achievements.

The group 1 Manikato Stakes is run there annually in his honour and a restaurant in the grandstand at Caulfield Racecourse bears his name.

Along with the aforementioned Australian Horse of the Year award for 1978-79, Manikato entered the Australian Racing Hall of Fame during the second year of that establishment's existence. Manikato re-defined the meaning of the term sprinter and set the bar for all to follow.

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