Masked Marvel is set to start his 2014 Spring Racing Carnival campaign in the 2014 Heatherlie Handicap at Caulfield on Saturday and co-owner Nick Williams is expecting the imported stayer to be at his best in his second campaign in Australia.
Masked Marvel joined Team Williams at the end of 2012 and he made his Australian racing debut with a lackluster effort in the Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) at Flemington before he finished third in the Group 2 Hill Stakes (2000m) at Royal Randwick on September 21, despite laying out badly in the straight.
The Montjeu entire was narrowly denied his maiden race win in Australia when he finished a close second behind Honorius in the Group 3 Craven Plate (2000m) at Royal Randwick on October 5, but he failed to fire in both the Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley on October 26 and the Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington on November 5.
Williams told Racing Ahead that he has been impressed with the work of Masked Marvel heading into the race now known as the Australian Thoroughbred Bloodstock Stakes (1700m) and he is confident that the six-year-old is in for a big spring campaign.
“Masked Marvel will definitely run all being well,” Williams said.
“He looks to be in great form and he has really come back well.
“He had a good break and we didn’t run him in the autumn and as everybody has now come to realise, these imported horses really are better after they have had a preparation here and I think that with a bit of luck we will see the best of him this spring.”
The 2014 Heatherlie Handicap has drawn a capacity field of 16 runners, as well as three emergencies, with a number of talented stayers set to begin their spring preparations.
Like Masked Marvel, Ibicenco will be returning to the races for the first time since the 2013 Melbourne Cup and he has the opportunity to become the first horse since Prince Benbara to win the race in back-to-back years.
Mr O’Ceirin finished second behind Ibicenco in the race last year and is set for another tilt at the Listed event and is will be joined in the event by stablemate Marksmanship, who has recorded three straight wins since joining the stable of Ciaron Maher.
Other interesting runners in the Heatherlie Handicap field included Queensland Derby winner Brambles, imported stayer Stipulate, Melbourne Cup hopeful Araldo and Wagga Wagga Cup winner Trade Commissioner.