Racing: McKee has Mufhasa fighting fit

By Michael Guerin

It must be spring. Popular veteran sprinter-miler Mufhasa is embarking on another campaign starting with the Makfi Stakes which he won last year. Photo / APN
It must be spring. Popular veteran sprinter-miler Mufhasa is embarking on another campaign starting with the Makfi Stakes which he won last year. Photo / APN

Now the long wait begins for trainer Stephen McKee and fans of veteran superstar Mufhasa.

And that wait will continue right up until around 4.33pm on Saturday as the galloping great makes his return in the $200,000 Makfi Challenge at Hastings.

The first group one race of the season has attracted an outstanding field, headed by favourites Mufhasa and Ocean Park but with a supporting cast including Guiseppina, He's Remarkable, Green Supreme, Fleur de Lune and Xanadu.

McKee is adamant Mufhasa goes into the race as forward, if not a touch more, than when he downed Jimmy Choux 12 months ago.

He retains favouritism for Saturday's race after drawing perfectly at barrier five, with second favourite Ocean Park inside him at four.

"He is very well, possibly even a little more forward than he was this time last season," McKee told the Herald.

"He galloped between races at Ruakaka last week, just as he did last season, and I thought this year's work was better.

"So he can definitely win but so much will depend on the weather and the racing pattern."

Which is why McKee advises punters to join him in playing the waiting game.

"If the track improves to a dead (6) then he will be really tough to beat but if it stays as a slow (8) or gets worse then it will blunt some of his speed.

"And that could also affect the racing pattern. If they start coming away from the inside it won't suit him at all.

"So the weather and what that does to the racing pattern will be crucial."

McKee says unless there is a deluge, and the weather forecast for Hastings is good, Mufhasa will definitely start and he thinks most of his key rivals will, too.

"We are all pretty much in the same boat. If we don't start here we can't be ready for the 1600m second leg of the Triple Crown.

"And if you don't start there it is very hard to get ready for the Spring Classic, or, in our case, heading back to Australia."

While a slow track won't suit Mufhasa, who has two wins and two placing in nine starts under these conditions, it also wouldn't help Ocean Park.

"He is probably the horse to beat but he won't want it wet either and he isn't as natural a 1400m horse as my fella.

"Still, he is very good. But if the track opens up and suits the swoopers then we are going to see horses like Guiseppina come right into it."

TAB bookies opened Mufhasa at $4.40 and Ocean Park at $4.60, with Mufhasa the more likely to tighten on raceday.

Fleur de Lune, who is drawn to sit right on the speed from barrier one, is rated a $6.50 chance, with the advantage of race fitness on her side.

Xanadu, who only just snuck into the field and was an eyecatching last-start third, is on the next line at $9, while the depth of the field sees an outstanding mare like Guiseppina quoted as a $11 chance, even with James McDonald in the saddle.

R8 4.31: Makfi Challenge Stakes, $200,000, WFA, 1400m. - Mufhasa (5), Justanexcuse (6), Fritzy Boy (14), Green Supreme (3), I Am Sam (2), The Hombre (8), He's Remarkable (19), Time Keeper (13), Khemosabi (15) 59; Ocean Park (4) 58.5, Fleur de Lune (1), Guiseppina (18), Art Beat (10), No Excuse Maggie (17) 57; Innovation (20), Xanadu (12) 56.5.

Emergencies: Baby Guinness (11) Smoulder (16) 57; Civics Rock (7) 58.5, Torino (9) 59.

- NZ Herald

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