Trainer Robert Heathcote believes that promising three-year-old Hopfgarten may be slightly outpaced when he takes on a strong field in the 2014 Fred Best Classic at Doomben this weekend.
Hopfgarten recorded his maiden win at Group level with a strong performance in the Group 3 Gunsynd Classic (1600m) at Eagle Farm on April 26 and will drop back to 1350 metres this weekend after Heathcote elected to set the Mossman gelding for the Group 2 Queensland Guineas (1400m) at Eagle Farm on May 31 rather than the Group 1 Queensland Derby (2400m) at the same venue a week later.
Heathcote told Racing Ahead that he was surprised by the quality of the nominations that were received for the Fred Best Classic, but believes that the Group 3 event gives Hopfgarten an ideal lead-in for the Queensland Guineas.
“It is a tough race, I saw the nominations and I said wow,” Heathcote said.
“I’m not sure that I made the right call coming back from a mile back to 1350 instead of going back-up to 2000 for the Rough Habit.
“At the end of the day the Queensland Guineas is the goal a couple of weeks later where he will be better suited, but they will probably be a little bit nippy for him.”
Hopfgarten made a slow start to his racing career, recording just one win in his past 11 starts, but has found his best form this preparation and will be chasing his fifth straight win this weekend after taking out the National Apprentice Series Handicap (1350m) at Doomben on March 12, the Sirromet Handicap (1400m) at Eagle Farm on March 26 and the Gallopers Handicap (1500m) at the same venue on April 9 before his classy win in the Gunsynd Classic.
While Heathcote admits Hopfgarten will be up against it in the Fred Best Classic this weekend, he has a high opinion of the ability of the horse and believes that he will continue to develop into a quality galloper.
“We have set the bar for this bloke and he keeps jumping it, he has won four in a row, and we can’t complain about it,” Heathcote said.
“I like him and he has just improved every race.
“Even Damien, who doesn’t say a lot, has a soft spot for him and thinks that he has a very bright future.
“I think that the mile is probably his pet distance, so the 1350 around Doomben may be a bit slippery for him, but he has freshened up nice and it will be three weeks between runs.”