The Doomben Cup was always on the agenda for Team Hawkes’ improving galloper Leebaz who has earned his spot near the top of the market order for the weight for age contest at Doomben today.
Leebaz had won three of his last four starts as he worked his way up through the classes this campaign and got the green light for a start in the Group 1 $500,000 Titan Energy Services Doomben Cup (2000m) after winning the Group 3 $150,000 Panthers Hawkesbury Gold Cup (1600m) at Hawkesbury May 3.
“Everyone thinks that because Dad (co-trainer John Hawkes) said after winning the Hawkesbury Cup that Leebaz is probably heading to the spelling paddock,’’ co-trainer Michael Hawkes told The Daily Telegraph.
“But we had always had the Doomben Cup in our plans, this race has always been there and it was up to the horse.
“When Leebaz pulled up as well as he did after Hawkesbury, then it told us he was ready for the Doomben Cup.
“To be fair, the horse is peaking and deserves a crack at this race.’’
Leebaz has kept stepping up to the next level with every run this campaign and went from winning a restricted race over 1400m at Randwick on February 22 to a Group 3 winner as an odds on favourite at Hawkesbury’s standalone meeting.
“How many horses can do what he has done?” co-trainer Michael Hawkes said.
“He’s just kept improving with every start which is typical of the Zabeel breed.”
“But’s he’s not your dour Zabeel, he is a running type. You can’t hold him up, he is a free-wheeling sort of horse so you just have to let him flow, keep him in rhythm.
Hawkes knows that the next step up to Group 1 weight for age racing will be a giant leap for Leebaz but he is confident the four year old’s natural ability and potential will see him handle the top level.
“Weight-for-age racing is different again but we hope his natural brilliance helps him,’’ Michael Hawkes said.
The Doomben Cup is clear of scratchings and the field of ten will go around on a Dead 5 rated track which will give every runner an equal chance.
In Saturday morning Doomben Cup betting with Ladbrokes.com.au, Leebaz is marked at $5.50 in a very tight market that has the Guy Walter trained Streama holding on to favouritism at $4.20 just ahead of the well supported Junoob ($4.60) from the Chris Waller stable.
Darren Weir’s last start Warrnambool Cup winner Akzar is also high up in the mix at $5 with Victorian galloper Mr O’Ceirin still solid in the market at $8 with Moriarty at $11 and French import Slow Pace at $15.
The rest of the field are at long odds with Angel Of Mercy at $26, Floria at $34 and Fat Al at $81.