The $500,000 C.F. Orr Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield on Saturday loomed as a golden opportunity for a host of stallion prospects to bolster their CVs, but instead the Group 1 race was taken by a gelding whose biggest claim to fame was a Kilmore Cup win.
Manuel served up a decent body-blow for most punters - although he did firm late from $31 to $21 - as he made the most of an on-pace bias at Caulfield to score by half a length over the dead-heaters Land Of Plenty ($7.50) and the $2.50 favourite Kementari.
Manuel had been failing in his ultimate autumn quest - the $5 million All-Star Mile - as he was languishing in 55th spot with just 197 votes before the Orr.
But the win lifts his profile and even gives Racing Victoria officials something to think about when they hand out the four wildcards as he is now a Group 1 Orr Stakes winner.
The horse even has his own video presentation to attract votes with the stable even trading on the success of Fawlty Towers and its famous Spanish waiter by the same name.
Trainer Tony McEvoy's son Calvin said the five-year-old had long threatened to win a good race.
"He's a horse we've had so much time for," McEvoy said. "We came here today as the outsider but what a ride by Luke (Currie). He just got to the front and didn't have to do too much to get there and he was strong to the line.
"As a colt he might not have been putting in a bit so gelding was the making of his horse. His form last prep was amazing. It was a surprise today as he beat some real quality horses but we always thought there was a good win in him."
Manuel and Luke Currie hold out Kementari and James McDonald and Land Of Plenty and Damien Lane, picture Quentinjlang.com
Stable foreman Mick Shepherdson said Manuel had been on an upward spiral for the past year.
"He got a lot of confidence from a win back here mid-spring and it culminated in a Kilmore Cup," he said. "The edge off the track today really brought him into the race as did the barrier (three).
"He has to take a big jump and he did."
It was so close and yet so far once again for the race favourite Kementari, who, like so many before him on Saturday, found it hard reeling in the leaders in the run home.
Trainer James Cummings was upbeat about the entire as well as the import Best Of Days, who caught the eye working home strongly into fifth in his first run since winning the G1 Canatala Stakes at Flemington last spring.
"I thought the horse ran boldly again," Cummings said of Kementari. "Second in a Group 1. They don't give them away. He hit the line well l and I think he'll go better second-up and I think you'll find him in the nominations for the Canterbury Stakes in a month's time."
As for Best Of Days, Cummings is hopeful the horse can make the final field for The All-Star Mile at Flemington on March 16 - either via the public vote or through a potential wildcard to be decided by Racing Victoria officials.
"I think it was a huge return," Cummings said. "The sort of run from a horse that is ready to go second-up as a winning chance. At that level, to return so strongly, I thought was extremely enthusing. He could be a Doncaster horse."
Manuel, picture Quentinjlang.com