Spark of Life Takes First Australian Group One

Slew O'Gold grandson Spark of Life collected the opening group I of the Australian season Sept. 11 with a wire-to-wire victory in the Manikato Stakes (Aust-I).

The $350,000 (Australian funds) feature, over 1,200 meters of Moonee Valley, appeared the perfect vehicle for the 4-year-old, particularly on a turf track made heavy by rain.

Spark of Life had won seven and finished second once from nine previous starts to 1,200 meters, the wins including The Galaxy (Aust-I) in his hometown of Sydney last fall. The gifted sprinter's only failure had been at his only other Melbourne start, when trapped on the slow side of a biased straight track at Flemington.

The 8-11 favorite was taken straight to the front by Danny Nikolic. After getting away with a soft run his backers had only a momentary concern as Yell tried to mount a challenge just inside the home stretch. But Anabaa's 3-time group I winner could not sustain the bid and settled for second, 1-1/4 lengths adrift at the wire.

At 1:13.36, the 37th Manikato is the second slowest in almost 20 years, and due to the state of the track. Adelaide filly Dilly Dally was a game third 1-3/4 lengths from Yell.

It was an emotional win for trainer Allan Denham at the scene of a great W.S. Cox Plate (Aust-I) win by Might and Power trained by his father Jack. Allan greatly assisted his father in the conditioning of the dual Australian Horse of the Year.

A winner of $775,00, Spark of Life was bred by the Thompson family at their Ellinthorpe Stud and is by the deceased Nine Carat. Before entering the Queensland farm, Nine Carat was a stakeswinner and gr.I placed in France.