King of the Spring Buffering gets his chance to regain his sprinting crown if he can blow away a smart field in the Group 2 $400,000 Challenge Stakes (1000m) at Randwick on Saturday.
Buffering threw away the bridesmaids tag when he scored a hat trick of Group 1 wins in the Spring by winning the $1m Sportingbet Manikato Stakes (1200m) at Moonee Valley, the $1m VRC Sprint Classic (1200m) at Flemington and the $500,000 Crown Perth – Winterbottom Stakes (1200m) at Ascot in Perth.
But Buffering’s number one spot as the country’s top sprinter has been put in jeopardy with the emergence of new sprinting sensation Lankan Rupee.
The Mick Price trained Lankan Rupee continued on with his winning Spring form with a first up win in the Group 2 $175,000 Schweppes Rubiton Stakes (1100m) at Caulfield on February 8.
But then the Redoute’s Choice four year old shot to another level with wins in the Group 1 $400,000 Sportingbet Oakleigh Plate (1100m) at Caulfield on February 22 and the Group 1 $1m Lexus Newmarket Handicap (1200m) at Flemington on March 8.
With Buffering off the scene, Lankan Rupee was quickly promoted to the top of the sprinting ranks, with trainer Robert Heathcote pointing out the racing public’s thinking of out of sight out of mind.
“Australians tend to be pretty quick to forget,” Heathcote told the Sportsman.
“Lankan Rupee is probably the top sprinter in the country at the moment, he has the runs on the board recently. Buffering had them back in the Spring.”
But Heathcote said that they will get a quick reminder that Buffering is back on Saturday and is looking forward to the clash with Lankan Rupee possibly in the Group 1 $2.5m Darley T J Smith Stakes (1200m) at Randwick on April 12.
Heathcote said that Buffering is ready to take on the Gerald Ryan trained Snitzerland who has had a freshen-up since winning the Group 1 $500,000 Black Caviar Lightning (1000m) at Flemington on February 15.
“I’m confident that my little bloke will turn up with his A game because he looks as good as he ever has this early in a preparation,” Heathcote said.
“He is what you see. He jumps and runs and pours the pressure on and you take him on at your own peril.”
Buffering and Snitzerland are already in a tight battle for favouritism with the Snitzel mare currently heading the Ladbrokes.com.au Challenge Stakes market order at $2.80 with Buffering at $3.10.
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“Snitzerland is probably rightly favourite on her Lightning win because it remains to be seen how Buff comes back but I am pretty happy with him,” Heathcote said.
“Everything has gone perfectly, in fact scarily so. Damian (Browne) made the drive down from Caloundra on Tuesday and gave him his final gallop on the course proper at Eagle Farm and came back with a smile on his face.”
Damian Browne will be riding Buffering on Saturday but could miss the rest of his Autumn Carnival mounts if he loses his appeal against a six week suspension after stewards found him guilty of not taking a run at the 400m on the Heathcote trained Kingtantes in the three year old Maiden at Eagle Farm on February 26.
If Browne fails to get his suspension overturned at appeal next Tuesday, top Sydney rider Nash Rawiller will be in line for the plumb ride on Buffering in the T J Smith Stakes.
The Peter Snowden trained Sessions is the only other runner under double figures at $5 with Bel Sprinter and Whittington sharing the next line of betting at $14 just in front of Villa Verda at $15 while Buffering’s fellow Queenslander Temple Of Boom has been marked a $21 chance.