Renowned Brisbane horseman Robert Heathcote is hoping for a change of luck in this year’s Bernborough Handicap as he chases a maiden win in the summer classic with Hopfgarten.
Heathcote, of Buffering fame, saddles-up his consistent stakes performer Hopfgarten in Saturday’s Listed $300,000 Bernborough Handicap (1600m) field for the fourth time.
A now seven-year-old son of Mossman, Hopfgarten ran fourth to Tinto in 2014 when the event ran at Toowoomba, a failed 12th to Centre Pivot at Doomben in 2015 and third to the ill-fated Cylinder Beach at Eagle Farm in last year’s Bernborough Handicap on New Year’s Eve.
Held back at Doomben Racecourse for 2017, this weekend’s Bernborough Handicap field attracted a dozen summer milers and Hopfgarten has work to do from the outside barrier.
His lead-up form over the spring – summer season has been honest as always including a third to Crack Me Up in the Listed $100,000 Recognition Stakes (1350m) and second to Cantbuybetter in the Listed $100,000 Brisbane Handicap (1600m) at Doomben.
Last start Heathcote took the gelding, a winner of just shy of $800,000 in career prize money to date, to Sydney on December 16 for a shot at Royal Randwick’s Group 2 $250,000 Villiers Stakes (1600m).
The race was won by fellow Queenslander, the aforementioned Recognition Stakes winner Crack Me up, but Hopfgarten could only manage to run three lengths back for ninth after a tough run from barrier 13 of 14.
The horse is back home on the weekend but is out wide again with jockey Ron Stewart to ride Hopfgarten on 58kg.
Twelve months ago Hopfgarten ran fifth to Sense Of Occasion in the Villiers Stakes before the Bernborough Handicap placings and Heathcote is hoping for a better result this season.
“I haven’t had much luck in the Bernborough over the years though Hopfgarten did run third last year,” Heathcote told Racing Queensland.
“Hopfgarten has run in this race three times now including once when it was run at Toowoomba so here’s hoping fourth time is lucky.
“I thought his Villiers run was super but I’m disappointed he’s drawn poorly again.
“He’s had a life of big weights and bad alleys.”
Hopfgarten currently pays $6.50 in the latest Bernborough Handicap odds at Ladbrokes.com.au.
The markets are an open affair with a host of runners under $10 for the win including the Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott-trained favourite Cabeza De Vaca ($2.80) coming off a Villiers Stakes second.
The Liam Birchley-trained Villiers Stakes winning Mossman four-year-old Crack Me Up meanwhile bypasses the Bernborough Handicap this weekend giving up a shot at the $100,000 bonus.
Birchley’s focus is instead on having the galloper in peak form for a shot at the $1 million Magic Millions Cup (1400m) at the Gold Coast on January 13.