Robert Heathcote’s tough old Queensland galloper got an early win for the Maroon fans at the Sunshine State’s biggest day of racing with seven-year-old Excellatnes successfully defending his Hinkler Handicap title on Stradbroke Handicap Day.
Kicking off proceedings at Doomben Racecourse for an historic meeting, the first time the Stradbroke Handicap has been run at any other track than Eagle Farm, this year’s $100,000 Listed Coca Cola Amatil Hinkler Handicap (1200m) features a dozen hopefuls.
Race favourite with the rails run was another Queensland in the Tony Gollan-trained Whiskey Allround who jockey Timothy Bell had first out of the gates and up on the speed ready to try and lead all-the-way.
Going up with him for an on-pace ride was also Heathcote’s Falvelon gelding Excellantes and jockey Michael Cahill, the galloper having won this race 12 months ago.
Last time out Excellantes finished a good fourth behind Into The Red in the Listed Ascot Handicap (1200m), and today with Cahill wasn’t going to get caught behind the frontrunners again.
“I wanted to ride him in the first three,” Cahill said post-win.
“I found he races better up on the pace.”
Whisky Allround led them round with Excellantes settled nicely into second just off him while the Ascot Handicap winner Into The Red had a horror run posted three wide with no cover in third.
Another top fancy in the markets, the Team Hawkes-trained Sydney visitor Kaepernick meanwhile got pushed back to last on the corner with 400m to go.
On the home straight the leaders got away from the fence while the in-form Fastnet Rock three-year-old Kaepernick was doing all the work over the closing few hundred metres to work his way into the finish with Tommy Berry in the saddle.
Excellatnes and the Kelso Wood-trained Not A Single Doubt four-year-old Into The Red drew away to fight it out to the line with Kaepernick closing fast.
It was the veteran and reigning champ who put in a tough late effort to hold off the chasers and win at a $13 price for Heathcote while Kaepernick put in a massive run after sitting last on the turn to finish a half-length second.
Into The Red finished off the trifecta and was also brave in defeat having been posted deep all the way but still battling on strongly to the line.
Ridden aggressively out of the barriers today, Excellantes was put right into the race and fought on well impressing Cahill and his trainer.
“He’s been a credit to his trainer,” Cahill said.
“He’s raced season after season very well.
“It was a very good win.”
Heathcote, who breathed a sigh of relief getting a Queenslander first-past-the-post after a quiet Brisbane Winter Racing Carnival so far for the locals, was equally as happy with the result.
“He’s a horse that’s always been close to me,” he said.
“We bred him and have raced him with some great people.
“He’s a tough old horse Excellantes and he’s shown that again today.”