Co-trainer Michael Hawkes has confirmed that Leebaz will step-up to 2000 metres for the first time this preparation in the 2015 JRA Plate at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
Leebaz has not raced over 2000 metres since he finished a more than credible second behind Streama in the Group 1 Doomben Cup (2000m) in May last year, but Hawkes believes that the five-year-old is crying out for a step-up in trip after performing well without a great deal of luck during his 2015 Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival campaign.
The Zabeel gelding started his autumn preparation with an unlucky sixth place finish behind Cosmic Endeavour in the Group 1 Canterbury Stakes (1300m) at Royal Randwick on March 7 and he overraced when third in the Group 3 Doncaster Prelude (1500m) at Rosehill Gardens on March 28.
Leebaz missed the start by two lengths in the Group 1 Doncaster Mile (1600m) and he was never able to work his way into the finish, but he was not disgraced in 11th position.
Hawkes told Sky Racing HQ that the slow start cost Leebaz any chance in the Doncaster Mile, but he is confident that the five-year-old will have an excellent chance to return to winning form in the JRA Plate this weekend.
“Unfortunately he missed the start in the Doncaster and that just put him right out of contention,” Hawkes said.
“Going into it we thought he was a chance with a light weight.
“His run was good and he hit the line solid, but once you miss the start it is game over.
“2000 metres is right up his alley and he will run well.”
The 2015 JRA Plate nominations were released by Racing New South Wales yesterday and 18 gallopers remain a chance of contesting the $150,000 event this weekend.
Arabian Gold is also a chance of backing up from the Doncaster Mile after she finished a credible sixth in the Group 1 event, while Destiny’s Kiss was outclassed in the Doncaster but will likely relish the step-up to 2000 metres.
Gypsy Diamond is likely to back-up after she was unable to get into the race when she finished ninth in the Group 1 Queen Of The Turf Stakes (1600m) at Royal Randwick last Saturday and Kevin Moses-trained Singing Flame is set to take winning form into the race following his tough win at Warwick Farm on April 8.
Index Linked, Epingle, Bagman, Malavio, Malice and Our Voodoo Prince are also a chance to contest the JRA Plate this weekend.