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Ken Casellas | Photo: Hamilton Content Creators

Boyanup trainer Justin Prentice readily admits that he was extremely disappointed at Manning’s performance when a well-beaten last in a field of six behind his talented stablemate Mighty Ronaldo last Friday night, but he is full of hope that the five-year-old will relish a drop in class and return to the winning list in the 2536m Mondo Doro Family Business Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

Manning will start from barrier four with Maddison Brown in the sulky, and Prentice said that the gelding would be driven aggressively.

Last week Manning raced in fourth position in an Indian file affair before Brown eased him off the pegs 1050m from home and dashed him forward to race without cover as Mighty Ronaldo set the pace. Manning was still in second place approaching the home turn before he faded and dropped back to finish last, six lengths behind Mighty Ronaldo, who sprinted over the final 400m sections in 28.2sec. and 27.1sec.

“He was terrible,” said Prentice. “But he has been working in super style, and this week he will be going forward hard and trying to work his way to the front. If he can’t get to the front, he will sit in the breeze.”

Manning, who has won 13 races, is sure to appreciate a significant drop in class and prove very hard to beat. His toughest rivals are likely to be Valentines Brook and Alta Rhett.

Valentines Brook, a consistent five-year-old trained and driven by Jocelyn Young, will start from the No. 2 barrier on the back line. He caught the eye last Friday night when he raced in seventh position on the pegs and was eased off the inside 750m from home.

But he was badly hampered for room when he moved into the one-wide line, and he was forced back to last in the field of ten with 220m to travel. Young then was able to get him into the clear and he was six wide on the home turn before sprinting strongly to finish third behind Doc Holliday and Mister Ardee.

On the surface it was an excellent performance by Valentines Brook. But maybe his dashing late burst might have caused a false impression. He was timed to cover his final 800m in 57.6sec. and the last 400m in 28.6sec. whereas Manning, against tougher opposition, covered his final 800m in 56.5sec. and his last 400m in 28.3sec. Therefore, comparing those sectionals, it is not difficult to suggest that Manning should prove the master of Valentines Brook.