Heathcote cautious with Buffering in Challenge Stakes

By: Mark Mazzaglia
March 12th, 2014

Leading Brisbane trainer Robert Heathcote is heading into Saturday’s Group 2 $400,000 Challenge Stakes (1000m) at Randwick with Buffering cautiously knowing that he is taking on a slick field of top class sprinters first up.

Buffering to take on smart sprint field in Challenge Stakes.

Buffering to take on smart sprint field in Challenge Stakes. Photo by Race Horse Photos Australia.

In particular Heathcote was eyeing off the Gerald Ryan trained Snitzerland who is coming off a win in the Group 1 $500,000 Black Caviar Lightning (1000m) at Flemington on February 15.

“It’s going to be a big ask taking on the Lightning Stakes winner first-up. I would say we’re going to be slightly vulnerable,” Heathcote told the Herald Sun.

While Heathcote said that Buffering was not fully wound up with his main Autumn Carnival goal the Group 1 $2.5m Darley T J Smith Stakes (1200m) at Randwick in four weeks, he is still very happy with the six year old’s condition heading to Randwick this weekend.

“Damian Browne rode him (at Eagle Farm) today and said whoever he’s up against on Saturday will have to go very fast to lead him,” Heathcote said after Tuesday morning track work.

“He’s going to be improved by Saturday’s run.’’

“It’s just a matter of how he copes with a high-­pressure race first-up.”

While Buffering has an excellent first up record with four wins, a second and a third from six attempts, Heathcote seems to thinks the 1000m is not his best distance even though he has recorded three wins from four goes.

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.

Browne has forged a great association with Buffering and among his five wins on the Mossman gelding are three at Group 1 level last Spring when he broke a frustrating run of minor Group 1 placings with a win in the $1m Sportingbet Manikato Stakes (1200m) at Moonee Valley on October 25 and backed that up with a win in the $1m VRC Sprint Classic (1200m) at Flemington on the final day of the Melbourne Cup Carnival.

Heathcote then took Buffering to Perth where the six year old scored a nose win over Moment Of Change in the Group 1 $500,000 Crown Perth – Winterbottom Stakes (1200m) at Ascot in Perth on November 23 during the Perth Summer Carnival.

Buffering has drawn nicely at gate three and is sure to take up a forward position while Snitzerland from gate eight with Brenton Avdulla is also certain to be in the firing line along with the Gai Waterhouse trained Whittington who jumps from gate four with Tommy Berry.

Waterhouse has kept Whittington up to the mark with a Randwick barrier trial win since winning the $176,000 Myer Magic Millions Open Sprint (1100m) at the Gold Coast on January 11.

Queensland sprinter Temple Of Boom (barrier 9) with Hugh Bowman and Mornington trained Bel Sprinter (Craig Newitt, 10) will both appreciate the hot pace up front and will be storming home at the finish of the Challenge Stakes.

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