09/23/2009 12:00AM

Apache Cat fresh for Mankato


The Breeders' Cup Challenge Win and You're In program travels to Australia on Friday night when the winner of the Group 1, $436,750 Mankato Stakes at Moonee Valley will receive a guaranteed place in the $1 million BC Turf Sprint.

Apache Cat, a seven-time Group 1 sprint winner for Greg Eurell, will be the logical post-time favorite. Freshened since a victory in the 6 1/2-furlong Doomben Stakes on May 23, the 7-year-old son of Lion Cavern pulled off a remarkable five-race, Group 1 winning streak last year and has won twice at the highest level over Moonee Valley's six-furlong course. Third in international company in the Hong Kong Sprint in December, he will be ridden by Damien Oliver.

The Chris Waller-trained Danleigh, winner of the seven-furlong, Group 1 All-Aged Stakes three back, was only third last time in the Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap going the same distance and may find six furlongs a bit on the short side.

Anthony Cummings will saddle a pair of Group 1 winners in Turffontein, a Johannesburg 5-year-old who took the seven-furlong Sir Rupert Clarke Handicap last out; and Duporth, a Red Ransom 4-year-old who eked out a nose decision in the six-furlong BTC Cup two back but was only 11th in Apache Cat's Doomben Stakes.

Russeting is a 5-year-old mare coming off a victory against her own sex in the seven-furlong, Group 1 Winter Stakes on June 20. Trained by the legendary Bart Cummings, she is, like many of the Mankato's 13 runners, returning off what is for Australian horses their winter's vacation.

Phelan Ready on April 4 won what is both the world's richest juvenile race and the world's richest sprint, the six-furlong, $2.5 million Golden Slipper. Since turning 3 on July 1, he has had a couple of races already this season, the better of them being his third-place finish in the Group 2 Premier Stakes two back.

Local interest will be focused on Nicconi. The one-length winner here of the five-furlong, Group 3 McEwen Stakes on Sept. 12, he chased home Takeover Target and Apache Cat when fourth two back in the six-furlong, Group 2 T.J. Smith Stakes in April.

Breeders' Cup officials will be keeping their fingers crossed that the Mankato winner will be at Santa Anita on Nov. 7, but it must be noted that none of the 13 horses in the race are nominated to the Breeders' Cup. Only Swift Alliance, whose sire Don Eduardo is Cup nominated in the Southern Hemisphere, would get in for the supplementary price of $90,000. The owners of the rest would have to ante up $150,000, even those sired by Lion Cavern, Johannesburg, and Red Ransom, who are only nominated to the Cup in the northern Hemisphere.