Co-trainer Wayne Hawkes is confident that Leebaz can return to winning form in the 2014 Emirates Stakes at Flemington on Saturday.
Leebaz stamped himself as a horse to watch when he took out the Group 3 Hawkesbury Gold Cup (1600m) and finished second in the Group 1 Doomben Cup (2000m) at the end of his autumn preparation, but he could finish no better than eighth when he started his 2014 Spring Racing Carnival campaign in the Group 3 Moonga Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield on October 18 after being blocked for a run in the final stages of the race.
Hawkes is adamant that Leebaz would have finished a lot closer to Lucky Hussler if he had found clear running in the Moonga Stakes and he told Racing Ahead that he believes the Zabeel gelding is more than capable of deliver the Team Hawkes stable a maiden win in the 2014 Emirates Stakes.
“He has had 11 starts for six wins, three seconds and his two unplaced runs were the other day at Caulfield,” Hawkes said.
“If you haven’t seen that go and look at it because he is still trying to get out.
“I am not saying that he would have won because the leader sprinted very, very quick and well, but at worst he should have run second.
“He is a winner and you don’t have to make excuses for winners and that is what Leebaz is.
“It is a very solid race without a superstar and he is the fresh horse on the scene like Chautauqua.
“I don’t think we have won an Emirates, so hopefully we can add that to the mantelpiece.”
Leebaz led from the front in the majority of his race wins, but Hawkes believes that the five-year-old has a great deal of a tactical versatility and can be ridden depending on the amount of early speed that is present in the race.
Hawkes said that jockey Dwayne Dunn has arguably been the form jockey of the 2014 Spring Racing Carnival to date and he is confident that the leading hoop will give Leebaz every chance to record a maiden win at Group 1 level in the Emirates Stakes.
“He doesn’t have to lead,” Hawkes said.
“He can certainly do either and Dwayne is riding in red hot form at the moment and I don’t think there is anybody riding better than him at the moment.
“He gets to Flemington on the big track, he will jump and how he jumps is how he will ride him.
“He will either lead or box seat and if he is any further back than you know they are going faster than scalded cats and that will suit.
“If they are not going hard then he will be right there and you just want every horse to have a clean opportunity and no one getting held up.”
Leebaz is currently available at 2014 Emirates Stakes odds of $8.50, while Contributer ($5) remains a clear favourite from Lucky Hussler ($7), Hooked ($7) and Bull Point ($7.50).