A win by Queensland hero Buffering in Saturday’s Group 1 $400,000 Bundaberg Distilling Co. BTC Cup (1200m) at Doomben will stake further claims towards claiming the 2013/2014 Horse Of The Year Crown.
Even though Buffering took all before him in the Spring with a hat trick for Group 1 wins, the Robert Heathcote speedster has virtually been forgotten in Horse Of The Year discussions.
Buffering broke through for his maiden Group 1 win when he held on to beat Lucky Nine in the $1m Sportingbet Manikato Stakes (1200m) at Moonee Valley and then went on to beat Shamexpress and Moment Of Change in the Group 1 $1m VRC Sprint Classic (1200m) at Flemington over the four day Melbourne Cup Carnival.
Heathcote then took Buffering to Perth and he was able to beat Moment Of Change by a whisker in the Group 1 $500,000 Crown Perth – Winterbottom Stakes (1200m) at Ascot on November 23.
Gai Waterhouse’s import Fiorente emerged as the favourite for the title with wins in last Spring’s Group 1 $6m Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) and this year’s Group 1 $1m Darley Australian Cup (2000m) both at Flemington.
And then the Mick Price trained Lankan Rupee shot up the market order to become the top pick with three devastating Autumn wins at Group 1 level in the $400,000 Sportingbet Oakleigh Plate (1100m) at Caulfield, the $1m Lexus Newmarket Handicap (1200m) at Flemington and the $2.5m Darley T J Smith Stakes (1200m) at Randwick on the first day of ‘The Championships’.
But if Buffering was able to add to his Group 1 tally with a win in the BTC Cup and follow up with a win in the $650,000 James Boag’s Premium Doomben 10,000 (1350m) at Doomben a fortnight later, he would have to be a serious contender for the Horse Of The Year title.
Buffering’s job has been made easier this week with the early withdrawal of the John O’Shea trained Sidestep because of a leg injury.
Sidestep was going to be a major obstacle for Buffering on Saturday and with him out of the way Heathcote can only see a very rain affected track the only obstacle.
“I am nervous because I think he is vulnerable on too wet a track. It takes away his biggest asset and that is his high cruising speed and his ability to sustain it,” Heathcote told The Courier-Mail.
“It is a concern.”
That aside, Heathcote knows that Buffering has the perfect opportunity to stake his claims for the Horse Of The Year Crown with a successful Winter Carnival.
“It’s there for Buffering to win,’’ Rob Heathcote said.
“We tend to have short memories. Buffering took all before him in the spring, his run was courageous when third in the TJ Smith, and now it’s up to him to go ‘bang, bang’. Maybe it will be enough to get him over the line.
“While Lankan Rupee enjoys a spell, there’s the opportunity for Buffering to step up to the plate and assume the mantle as top sprinter.’’
New Zealand weight for age champ It’s A Dundeel is also in the betting with two Group 1 wins on the board this season, the $400,000 Hyland Race Colours Underwood Stakes (1800m) at Caulfield in the Spring and the $4m Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) at Randwick on the second day of ‘The Championships’.
2013/2014 Australian Horse Of The Year market order: $1.40 Lankan Rupee, $2.55 Firoente, $5 It’s A Dundeel, $11 Buffering.