MAJOR Manbar continued his surge of form with an impressive metropolitan win at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday night.
The six-year-old gelding, trained at Sutton Grange by Ross Graham, made it back-to-back victories with a polished 1.3m ahead of the $2.15 favourite Villacci over his non-preferred distance of 2240m.
He previously won at Maryborough on February 3.
The win capped a good night for Graham, who picked up a second with his six-year-old trotter Nephew Of Sonoko.
Both horses were driven by James Herbertson.
Graham was thrilled to add another city win with Major Manbar, who went past the $100,000 mark in earnings with his third Melton win.
"He finished off really nicely. It was great to win over the 2200m, that's not really his go, he's more of a short distance horse," the 48-year-old trainer-driver said.
"Even though he's won his last two over 2200m, which have been the only races around for him, he's really a short course horse.
"He's settled in his last two runs which has made a difference. Whereas that's been a bit of his problem in the past, he's overraced a bit."
The son of Major Bronski and the mare Korobeit Princess won for the 11th time in 51 starts. He has been placed top-three in 26 of his starts.
Major Manbar is part-owned by Collingwood stars Steele Sidebottom and Jeremy Howe, their former team-mate Josh Thomas and former Pies football boss Geoff Walsh.
Graham was further stoked to see his Group 2 winner Nephew Of Sonoko rebound into form and grab second in the NR 65 to 79 trot following a somewhat leaner patch late last year and early this year.
"He just wasn't trotting quite right - it didn't take much of an excuse for him to jump out of his gear," he said.
"He got a slight check in a couple of his races, but he still should have trotted.
"But he trotted pretty faultlessly last night."
Graham was hopeful the son of Danny Bouchea and the mare Sister Of Sonoko could at some point return to the heights of his Group 2 victory in the Vicbred Platinum Metropolitan Trot Final at Melton last May.
"I would say so, he's back in that grade again and should nearly be eligible for that race again when it comes around," he said.
"He's going equally as good as he was back then."
An exciting time for the Graham stable is being partly fuelled by a crop of 11 two-year-olds, who have taken their place at Sutton Grange alongside a dozen race-experienced horses.
"We went to the trials (on Sunday) morning and trialled a couple who haven't been to the races yet and they both acquitted themselves well," he said.
"They're heading in the right and won't be too far away."
Both Nephew Of Sonoko and Major Manbar are expected to return to Melton in a fortnight's time.
Again among the winners at Melton were Julie and Glenn Douglas.
The Strathfieldsaye-based stable got its 12th win with Ozzie Battler in the claiming pace.
The five-year-old gelding, driven by Glenn Douglas, led all the way to record a fighting half-neck win over Ample Power, with the stable-mate Bernie Winkle running another nice race to finish third.
Ozzie Battler boosted his prize earnings to $194,770.
A consistent season for the son of Sunshine Beach has included two wins and two placings from six starts.
Earlier on the program, the Douglases scored a second with the four-year-old mare Pray Tell in a race won in convincing fashion by the Dean Braun-trained Im Off N Gone.
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