Leading Queensland trainer Robert Heathcote is chasing his second winner in Victoria in as many weeks when Solzhenitsyn defends his title in the Group 1 Toorak Handicap (1600m) at Caulfield on Saturday.
Heathcote had his first interstate winner of the season at Flemington on Saturday, after Buffering and Solzhenitsyn were both placed at Group 1 level last weekend, when Fire Up Fifi stormed home late to record an impressive victory in the Group 2 Blazer Stakes (1410m) and Solzhenitsyn looks well placed to keep the winning run going this weekend.
Solzhenitsyn heads into the Toorak Handicap on the back of impressive performances in the Group 2 Theo Marks Stakes (1400m) and Group 1 Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes (1400m) and Heathcote told RSN that the seven-year-old is in outstanding condition.
“I am very happy with him,” Heathcote said.
“Melissa (Leitch) is down there at Flemington with him at the moment and she knows this horse as well as anybody.
“She has been with him since we first got him from New Zealand and Mel sad that he has never been better.
“He has come through that run in great order and we go into the Toorak with what we believe is a horse at the top of his game.”
Solzhenitsyn will carry 55.5kg in the Toorak Handicap, three and a half kilograms more than he carried last year, and Heathcote said that he was delighted with the weight.
“I nearly fell over; I went straight to the fridge,” Heathcote said.
“I am very happy with that; I think I owe a drink to King Mufhasa’s connections there.”
Leading jockey Nash Rawiller partnered Solzhenitsyn for the first time in the Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes and was critical of a tactical error he made on the St Petersburg gelding but will get the opportunity to atone for his perceived mistake this weekend.
“I asked him if he wanted to ride him in the Toorak and he jumped on it,” Heathcote said of Rawiller.
“I’m happy to have him on, I know he has been in the media a bit these last few days, but he is still a champion rider.”
Solzhenitsyn is set to face former winner King Mufhasa as well as Group 1 winners Linton, December Draw, Luckygray, Ferlax and Yosei in the Toorak Handicap on Saturday.