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Southern Speed Sneaks In

Defending Caulfield Cup champ Southern Speed has kicked off her Melbourne Spring campaign with the smallest of victories in the Group 2 Makybe Diva Stakes at Flemington on Saturday.

Jockey Craig Williams took advantage of the slow speed, looming to the front and holding off a fast finishing Manighar to win in a photo finish by a nose.

The finish was so tight even Williams wasn't sure of the result. "I always have to respect Manighar and I actually thought at the line he'd beaten me", he said.

It was almost an exact reversal of their last encounter in March, where Manighar came out on top in the Australian Cup by a similar margin.

Manighar, who started race favourite, was unlucky not to claim the prize, getting blocked for a run up the straight and flashing home over the last 200 metres. Trainer Peter Moody could not be happier with his star gelding, who has returned in similar form that saw him win three Group 1 races over the Autumn.

The battle for this pair may just be starting with both horses aimed at a potential Caulfield Cup/Cox Plate double as their main Spring targets.

2010 Queens Cup winner Moudre put in an eyecatching run, flashing home late into third place. He has now shot into Caulfield Cup considerations after seemingly finding his old form.

Mawingo, who was favourite for the Caulfield Cup prior to the Makybe Diva, was very disappointing, and as a result has dropped significantly in the markets. Green Moon, who put in a solid first up run in the Memsie Stakes, sits atop the betting, with Southern Speed and Manighar not far behind.

Robert Hickmott trained Excluded has also put his hand up for Caulfield Cup consideration with a nice win in the last race of the day. The 2000 metre handicap has been a good form reference in recent years with Green Moon and December Draw both coming through it previously and then going on to run well in the Cup.

The Bobbie Lewis Quality was another feature of the day as many of the country's best sprinters lined up, without having to contend with Black Caviar. And it was Mark Kavanagh's We're Gonna Rock who stood up, rocketing down the straight to nudge out Temple Of Boom by 0.1 lengths.

It was his fourth win from five first up starts.

The Danehill Stakes went to favourite Snitzerland who just managed the win for Gerald Ryan against third starter Stralia. Both should be in for strong campaigns.

In the Let's Elope, New Zealand mare Zurella caught everyone's eye with a commanding win, and with only 50kg in the Caulfield Cup, has to be a serious contender. She will go to the Naturalism to avoid any penalties.