The Robert Heathcote trained Hopfgarten will warm up for a Winter Carnival campaign when he resumes in the Listed $100,000 ICA Sunshine Coast Ascot Handicap (1200m) at the Sunshine Coast on Saturday.
Heathcote is in Hong Kong putting the final touches on stable star Buffering who is preparing to run in the Group 1 HK$10,000,000 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m) at Sha Tin in Hong Kong on May 1 and will monitor Hopfgarten’s performance on the weekend before confirming his Winter Carnival program.
Hopfgarten will be having his first run back since finishing down the track when tenth of fourteen in the $1m Magic Millions Trophy (1800m) at the Gold Coast on January 9 but Heathcote expects the 1200m of the Ascot to be too short him.
“They will probably be a bit slick for him on Saturday but I would expect him to be finishing hard,” Heathcote told AAP.
“But he has won twice first-up and he won the Sunshine Coast Guineas at his only run on the track.”
Hopfgarten has won first up in the past over 1350m twice and has a perfect one from one winning record at the Sunshine Coast after taking out the 2014 Group 3 $125,000 XXXX Sunshine Coast Guineas (1600m).
Heathcote had tested Hopfgarten over a middle distance at his last couple of campaigns and even though he ran a respectable fifth to Pornichet in the Group 1 $650,000 The Bundaberg Rum Doomben Cup over 2000m at Doomben during last year’s Brisbane Winter Carnival, Heathcote said that he limit the Mossman gelding to distances up to 1600m.
“But I think we asked a bit much of him wanting to get out to a middle distance,” Heathcote said.
“This time we will keep him at distances up to 1600 metres.
“Also I think we will step back a few classes this winter and tackle the Group Three and Listed races around those distances.”
“It is no use aiming too high but he is a good horse so we will see.”
Hopfgarten has been allocated the top weight of 58.5kg for the Ascot Handicap and jockey Damian Browne should be able to give him a sweet run midfield from barrier two.
The five year old hasn’t visited the winner’s stall for thirteen months since his first up victory over 1350m in a Doomben Open Handicap in March last year.
As well as winning the Sunshine Coast Guineas, Hopfgarten was also a Group 3 winner of the $125,000 APHS Gunsynd Classic (1600m) at Doomben during the 2014 Brisbane Winter Carnival and also won at Listed level when he took out the 2014 $100,000 Ray Nolan Brisbane Handicap (1600m) at Doomben over the Summer Carnival.
Hopfgarten is well in the betting for the Ascot Handicap at $7 with Ladbrokes.com.au who have the Victorian mare Jessy Belle as the $5 favourite.
The Tony Gollan trained Casual Choice and local galloper Worthy Cause share the second line of betting at $5.50 ahead of Gollan’s new stable acquisition Frespanol at $7.50.
Ascot Handicap market order at Ladbrokes.com.au: $5 Jessy Belle, $5.50 Worthy Cause, Casual Choice, $7 Hopfgarten, $7.50 Frespanol, $13 Mischievous Devil, Architect, $16 Desert General, $18 Sambuca Shot, Ellawisdom, Whiskey Allround, $26 Daph ‘N’ Alf.