Leebaz is set to return to racing in the 2015 Canterbury Stakes at Royal Randwick on Saturday and co-trainer Michael Hawkes is happy with the condition of the talented gelding heading into the Group 1 event.
Leebaz was brought through the grades slow by Team Hawkes and he recorded six wins from his first eight starts, including the Group 3 Hawkesbury Gold Cup (1600m) in May last year, before he stamped himself as a genuine Group 1 contender when he finished second behind talented mare Streama in the Group 1 Doomben Cup (2000m) during the 2015 Brisbane Winter Racing Carnival.
Team Hawkes had big hopes for Leebaz during the 2015 Spring Racing Carnival and the Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) was one race on the agenda for the Zabeel gelding, but he had no luck in running when he made a delayed start to his spring campaign Group 3 Moonga Stakes 1400m) at Caulfield on October 18 and he was sent to the spelling paddock after he finished a credible fourth behind Hucklebuck in the Group 1 Emirates Stakes (1600m) at Flemington on November 8.
Leebaz made his first public appearance since in spring campaign in a barrier trial over 800 metres at Warwick Farm on February 27 and did enough in the trial to suggest to Hawkes that he is ready to run a big race in the 2015 Canterbury Stakes.
“We accepted with him,” Hawkes said.
“He trialed really good last Friday at Warwick Farm behind those good sprinters.
“He wasn’t asked to do much and he only had a short prep last time in.
“In saying that we have always been targeting this autumn with him and hopefully you will see him bob up in races during The Championships.
“He is really, really good and he is going to run a really good race on Saturday.”
Team Hawkes are yet to decide on a firm plan for Leebaz during the 2015 Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival, but he has been included in the nominations for races like the Group 1 Doncaster Mile (1600m) at Royal Randwick on April 4 and the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) at the same venue a week later.
The 2015 Canterbury Stakes field was released this morning and Leebaz will take on Group 1 winners Sacred Falls, Criterion, Royal Descent and Cosmic Endeavour in the $400,000 event.
Team Hawkes are chasing their third win in the Canterbury Stakes after previously taking out the event with Malcolm (2007) and Mentality (2008).