Trainer Robert Heathcote is banking on an overdue change of luck at Doomben today to propel Solzhenitsyn back into contention for the Group 1 $1.36m AAMI Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) at Eagle Farm on June 8.
Heathcote was forced to run Solzhenitsyn in the Group 3 $115,000 Carlton Mid Lord Mayor’s Cup (1600m) when he missed the first acceptances for the Group 1 $500,000 Kirks Doomben Cup (2000m).
Then to add more woes to the Heathcote camp, the Toorak Handicap winner came up with the outside gate in the twelve horse field at acceptance time, which has been reduced to eleven with the scratching of the Kelly Schwieda trainer What Happenedhenry.
Solzhenitsyn and the out of form Voila Ici are the only two Group 1 winners in the Lord Mayor’s Cup with Heathcote saying that only bad luck will stop his charge from making it back to back wins.
“He’s the best horse in the race and should win, but I just want to ensure bad luck doesn’t beat him,” Heathcote said.
Jockey Michael Rodd will be given a free rein on how he will handle the horror draw from the tricky 1600m starting point and will probably let the field get around the first bend before deciding whether to go forward or back.
“The conundrum is whether we go forward or back,” Heathcote said.
“I don’t want a situation where Transporter and Epic drop anchor in front and we’re back in the field with no chance of running them down. I want Michael to be able to whip around them if that scenario unfolded.”
Solzhenitysn’s Winter Carnival preparation was interrupted when scratched from the Group 1 $2m BMW Doncaster Mile (1600m) at Randwick on April 20 when the track was downgraded to a heavy ten during the day.
Then Heathcote had to change directions again when the Doomben Cup dropped off of the radar with the Stradbroke the remaining Group 1 target.
“Solzhenitsyn has had an odd preparation. I had been pouring the work into him to have him fit enough for the Doomben Cup, but I’ve had to back pedal in the last 12 days since we missed the acceptances,” Heathcote said.
“Hopefully we can pick up some prizemoney here to offset the scratching fee from the Doncaster and push on to have him spot on for the Stradbroke.”
Solzhenitsyn returned from Sydney after missing a Doncaster start to be beaten less than two lengths when seventh to Lights Of Heaven and Foreteller in the Group 2 $358,000 Wimmers Soft Drinks A. D. Hollindale Stakes (1800m) at the Gold Coast on May 4.
Pre-post Lord Mayor’s Cup markets have Solzhenitsyn the $2.40 favourite ahead of the John Thompson trained Transporter at $3.60 and the Kiwi mare Zennista at $8.
Transporter handled the step up to Group 2 company well after winning at Doomben and Eagle Farm with an excellent third in the Hollindale Stakes beating home Solzhenitsyn.