Trainer Robert Heathcote has revealed that triple Group 1 winner Buffering will return to racing in the Group 2 Challenge Stakes (1000m) at Royal Randwick on March 15.
Buffering was sent to the spelling paddock following his third straight victory at Group 1 level in the Winterbottom Stakes (1200m) at Ascot on November 23 and returned to the Heathcote stable at Eagle Farm at the start of last week.
Heathcote told Racing Ahead this morning that he has elected not to set Buffering for any races during the 2014 Melbourne Festival Of Racing and the Mossman gelding will contest the Challenge Stakes first-up before running in the $2.5 million Group 1 T.J. Smith Stakes (1200m) at Royal Randwick on April 12.
Buffering will return to his home stable for the 2014 Brisbane Winter Racing Carnival and is likely to follow his usual path, which includes the Group 2 Victory Stakes (1200m), the Group 1 BTC Cup (1200m), the Group 1 Doomben 10,000 (1350m) and the Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap (1400m).
Heathcote said that Buffering will return to Melbourne to defend his titles in the Group 1 Manikato Stakes (1200m) and VRC Sprint Classic (1200m) during the 2014 Spring Racing Carnival and is hopeful that the tough sprinter will be in good enough form to warrant a trip to Hong Kong for the Group 1 Hong Kong International Sprint (1200m).
Buffering was set to contest the Group 1 event in 2012, but had an adverse reaction to an inoculation required to make the trip to Hong Kong and failed to fire during the 2012 Spring Racing Carnival.
The Hong Kong International Sprint has remained on Heathcote’s radar since and he is excited about having the opportunity to contest such a prestigious race with Buffering.
“He will have another break and head back down for the Spring before hopefully a trip to Hong Kong,” Heathcote said.
“There are a couple of trainers who have previously done the trip away and it is a once in a lifetime thing to have a horse good enough and for the whole experience of it.
“We are looking forward to it.”
Australian trained-horses dominated the Hong Kong International Sprint at the start of the century, with Falvelon claiming back-to-back wins in 2000 and 2011 before All Thrills Too won the race in 2002, but no Australian horse has contested the race in recent years.