A relieved Robert Heathcote is certainly glad the his charge Hopfgarten has made the field for the inaugural running of the Group 1 $700,000 Darley Kingsford-Smith Cup (1300m) at Eagle Farm on Saturday.
The Kingsford-Smith Cup replaces the 1200m Group 1 BTC Cup that had been run at Doomben at the start of the Brisbane Winter Carnival and the Eagle Farm trainer took a gamble when he scratched Hopfgarten from last Saturday’s Group 3 $125,000 Taxibox BRC Sprint (1350m) at Doomben to save him for this week’s Group 1.
But Heathcote was very surprised that Hopfgarten was ranked number forty-three in the order of entry for the Kingsford-Smith Cup when the weights were released early in the week and there was a danger of him missing a start.
But with only fourteen final acceptors for the 1300m weight for sprint, the Eagle Farm specialist is now in with a great chance of figuring in the major prizemoney.
“It was a bit of shock to hear he was 43rd in the ballot. But he is in the field now and he will race well Saturday,” Heathcote told AAP.
Hopfgarten has a tremendous record at Eagle Farm with five wins and six placings but more importantly is the fact that the six year old has won on the newly reconstructed Eagle Farm track with his victory on the reopening day in June last year in the Listed $100,000 RadioTAB The Wayne Wilson Mile (1600m).
The Mossman gelding also showed that he has returned from a spell in great order with a first up second to Music Magnate in the Group 2 $200,000 Ellyce Galvin Victory Stakes (1200m) April 29 on a shifty Soft 7 rated Eagle Farm surface.
The Kingsford-Smith Cup has pulled together a classy field of sprinters that includes Group 1 winners Under The Louvre, Japonisme and Music Magnate as well as five times Group 1 winner Black Heart Bart who Heathcote considers the horse to beat.
“Black Heart Bart is the horse to beat but at least we know Hopfgarten handles Eagle Farm,” Heathcote said.
The Darren Weir trained Black Heart Bart has had one run on the new Eagle Farm track for a nose second to Under The Louvre in the 2016 Group 1 $1.5m AAMI Stradbroke Handicap (1400m).
Black Heart Bart resumed from a spell last Saturday for a seventh to Vega Magic in the Group 1 $1m Darley Goodwood (1200m) at Morphettville and Weir has no concerns about backing the six year old up this week in the Kingsford-Smith Cup.
“He seems to have come through the run in really good order and it (backing up within a week) won’t worry him. He’s the type of horse that will handle that,” Weir said.
“It’s a race that should suit him as its weight-for-age and I’m sure he’ll get a better ride this week.”
Local jockey Ronnie Stewart has retained the ride on Hopfgarten who has drawn barrier ten while Brad Rawiller will partner Black Heart Bart again from barrier four.
Black Heart Bart has been installed the early favourite at $3.40 for the Kingsford-Smith Cup at Ladbrokes.com.au while Hopfgarten is rated a $20 chance.