With Queensland’s premier trainer Robert Heathcote enacting a nationwide media ban following a $500 fine for comments made in a blog, racing in the sunshine state has lost one of its best promoters on the eve of one of its biggest races.
But Heathcote’s number one gun Buffering can do the talking for local racing when he starts as favourite against some serious interstate raiders in Saturday’s Group 1 BTC Cup (1200m) at Eagle Farm.
And Queensland needs him.
In the last decade the $400,000 Brisbane feature has been robbed of its riches by outsiders. Of the past 10 winners only Falvelon (2003) and Albert The Fat (2010) have saluted as home-trained heroes.
Last year Buffering was poised to claim top honours before a stone bruise cruelly ruled him out on the eve of the race.
In 2011 he finished third behind Black Caviar and Hay List. Enough said.
But now, fully fit and showing as a $2.50 top elect in betting, there are no excuses as Queensland’s reigning horse of the year has his best chance yet to join the Group 1 club.
The seven-time Group 1 placegetter ticks all the boxes.
It’s his pet distance, boasting seven victories and eight minor placings over the 1200m trip.
It’s at his home track, a venue where he has won four of seven and also boldly carried 58kg to run second in last year’s Stradbroke Handicap.
There’s no denying the tough gelding’s form. In his BTC Cup warm-up in the Victory Stakes (1200m) the son of Mossman overcame some early pestering from Listen Son to thrash his rivals by 3 1/2 lengths in a slick time of 1:08.54.
Drawing barrier seven is perhaps the only slight knock on the proven weight-for-age speedster who faces a battle with Sydney top-liners Rain Affair (2) and Sea Siren (3) who have the advantage of being drawn inside Buffering.
The pair represent the major dangers to preventing the local success story.
But both will have to overcome queries that are far more worrying than a slightly awkward barrier.
Rain Affair, also a Group 1 bridesmaid, was second to All Too Hard in the All Aged Stakes (1400m) but is dropping back in distance and even trainer Joe Pride has said the 1200m is not his most ideal trip.
Sea Siren is a triple Group 1 winner and defending champion but the classy mare has failed to show her best since a failed trip to Hong Kong in December.
The BTC Cup is the first Group 1 of Brisbane’s winter carnival and will jump as race 7 at 3:40pm (AEST).