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Former boom pacer The Manipulator recaptured his zest for racing at Winton on Saturday.
The former All Stars stable up-and-comer held on to win race 8 in a nailbiting finish with runner-up Ideal Draw.
The sight of The Manipulator sticking his head out on the line under the drive of Maruia Parker was a pleasing sight for his trainer, Brent McIntyre.
McIntyre had wondered whether the horse had lost his will to win.
"That was what I was most pleased about — he didn’t let the other horse overtake him, because he hasn’t really been doing that lately.
"The biggest thing with him is mental, so hopefully he keeps doing it," McIntyre said.
"Last month I was on the verge of sacking him because I thought he had lost his mojo."
The Manipulator looked a rising star in 2015 when winning races for Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen. A fractured knee halted his progress but he returned to race for the All Stars stable in 2016.
He then injured the same knee again and was put out for an extended spell by his breeder and part-owner, Neil Timms.
Despite his chequered medical history, The Manipulator seemed to be "as sound as a bell", McIntyre said.
Any win this spring could be considered a bonus for McIntyre, the studmaster at Macca Lodge in Northern Southland.
He has a hectic stud season ahead.
The stud served 300 mares last season and McIntyre hoped the same number would be served on the property this year.
Rookie sires Captaintreacherous and Sweet Lou had been two of the most popular stallions with southern broodmare owners at this early stage of the season, he said.
"Sweet Lou is one of the most popular. . . . Everyone is pretty keen on him, and Captaintreacherous is obviously going very well in America.
"Vincent is another one that has attracted quite a few mares."
In a boost for the stud, Macca Lodge’s resident stallion, Net Ten EOM, sired his first winner when Wolf West won at Gore last month.