Howley eyes Group prizes with Almanzor colt

Howley eyes Group prizes with Almanzor colt20 Aug 2022

Liam Howley’s spring confidence in Virtuous Circle was given a significant boost following the Almanzor colt’s successful return to racing at Moonee Valley this afternoon.

The Kyneton trainer produced the three-year-old for a dashing victory over 1500 metres and will likely return to the scene of his first-up victory to make his next appearance.

“Hopefully, he will have a big spring and I think we’ll come back for the Stutt Stakes (G2, 1600m) and then decide whether we look at the Caulfield Guineas (G1, 1600m) or stretch him out a bit further,” Howley said.

In his first appearance for five months, Virtuous Circle settled back on the fence and the youngster wound up powerfully along the rail to get the deciding stride in.

“He’s still a bit raw, but he gave me a great feeling and Liam has done a fantastic job with him,” successful rider Blaike McDougall said.

Virtuous Circle spearheaded a grand result for our farm with stud graduate Proscenium March finishing a close third after setting the pace and boxed on gallantly after making the home bend awkwardly.

Unplaced on debut last season before he caused a boilover at Mornington where he was at odds of 60-1, Virtuous Circle was again ignored by the market at Moonee Valley, this time returning 30-1.

“I think they might be pricing the trainer and not the colt, who is on the up and we thought he was going super,” Howley said.

“He has come back really well after his first preparation and has ticked every box along the way.”

Virtuous Circle was offered by Wentwood Grange on behalf of breeders Di McDonald and Rob Mulcaster at the Inglis Classic Yearling where Howley secured him for A$360,000 with Andrew Williams Bloodstock and Bevan Smith Bloodstock.

He is a half-brother to the Listed Castletown Stakes winner Danger Strykes with their dam the black-type performer She Is Stryking, who was served last season by Hello Youmzain.

Howley also bought Virtuous Circle’s brother for A$225,000 at the Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale earlier this year.