Trainer Robert Heathcote capped of a memorable weekend when he received the Victorian Racing Media’s personality of the year award in Melbourne on Sunday night.
With perennial Group 1 bridesmaid Buffering picking up a Group 1 double during the Melbourne Spring Carnival as well as Solzhenitsyn winning back to back Group 1 $400,000 David Jones NBCF Toorak Handicaps (1600m) at Caulfield, it was hard to go past Brisbane’s premiership winning trainer.
Heathcote had only just stepped off the plane from Perth after watching Buffering make it a hat trick of Group 1 victories with the narrowest of wins over Moment Of Change in the Group 1 $500,000 Crown Perth – Winterbottom Stakes (1200m) at Ascot on Saturday.
Heathcote and Buffering have been regular visitors to the Melbourne Carnivals over the last three years and came close on many occasions to winning that elusive Group 1 but had to return home to Brisbane empty handed after running into the likes of Black Caviar and Hay List.
But with those two great sprinters now retired, Buffering was able to step up and claim the crown as the nation’s number one sprinter with wins in the Group 1 $1m Sportingbet Manikato Stakes (1200m) at Moonee Valley and the Group 1 $1m VRC Sprint Classic (1200m) at Flemington during the Melbourne Spring Carnival before heading to Perth.
“Racing is a funny game. It wasn’t that long ago that Buffering was getting beaten in Group 1s for the 15th, 16th, 17th time. I was beginning to wonder if he was ever going to win one and he’s gone bang, bang, bang,” Heathcote told Racing Network.
“We know he wasn’t as good as Black Caviar and Hay List, but they’re not here anymore so he has stepped into the breach.”
Heathcote has ruled out a trip to Royal Ascot in England next June and will concentrate on the huge prizemoney on offer during the revamped Sydney Autumn Carnival and will aim Buffering towards the Group 1 $2.5m Darley T J Smith Stakes (1200m) at Randwick on April 12.
“The TJ Smith in Sydney is now a $2.5 million race and the lead-up to it, the Challenge Stakes is now worth $400,000,” Heathcote said.
“If he was a colt it would be different and we might go overseas but he’s a gelding and the money is too good here.
“I’ve also got a big stable to run and it would be too much time away.”
Heathcote won the Victorian Racing Media’s personality of the year over a short list of high profile racing identities including trainers Gai Waterhouse, Chris Waller, Peter Moody and three times Melbourne Cup winning jockey Glen Boss.