Buffering and Solzhenitsyn have already shown they are up to grade in Melbourne but it will be a less heralded member of Robert Heathcote’s spring brigade stepping out in the Victorian capital this weekend.
Excellantes, a five-year-old sprinter, will contest the Group 2 Gilgai Stakes (1200m) at Flemington on Saturday after signalling his potential for bigger things during a consistent winter campaign in Brisbane.
The Falvelon gelding won two of four winter starts which included a breakthrough stakes victory in the Listed Chief De Beers Handicap.
Heathcote admits Excellantes will have to show considerable improvement to upset the likes of Bel Sprinter and Spirit Of Boom this weekend but takes confidence from an impressive trial performance last month.
“Realistically he’s got to improve three lengths,” Heathcote said.
“He’s been a good Listed runner in Brisbane and that’s why he is down there. He’s earned the trip.
“His trial was really good, he won by four lengths but it was the way he did it. If he runs up to his best he’ll be competitive.”
While Excellantes has already earned his ticket south, Heathcote is hoping he can add an extra member to his Melbourne brigade this weekend when Fillydelphia resumes in an Open Handicap (1300m) at Eagle Farm.
The five-year-old mare failed to make an impact during the winter but the leading Queensland trainer has always rated her highly.
“She just didn’t come up during the winter, she wasn’t right, but I’ve always had a good opinion of her,” Heathcote said.
“She’s a Group 3 winner in the Rough Habit Plate last year and got beaten an eyelash by Kontiki Park in the summer.”
The daughter of Bianconi also won a trial last month and will be out to return to the form that has made her a dual stakes-level winner.
“She trialled well as well and we’ve got an eye to going to Melbourne with her,” Heathcote said.
“She’s a quality mare when she’s right but to get a trip to Melbourne she’d have to be winning well this weekend.”