Trainer Phillip Stokes believes that Hucklebuck is ready to fire second-up in the 2014 Stradbroke Handicap and remains happy with his decision to scratch the talented gelding from the Group 2 Queensland Guineas(1400m) last weekend.
The Queensland Guineas was originally one of the major targets for Hucklebuck during the 2014 Brisbane Winter Racing Carnival, but Stokes opted to remove the three-year-old from the field after it became clear that he was assured on a run in the Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) this weekend.
“We originally thought that we wouldn’t get a run in the Stradbroke, but once first acceptances came out and we got in we were pleasantly surprised,” Stokes said.
“The horse has done fantastic, the weather is great up here, and he has tightened up nicely from his first-up run.
“We just figured that his second-up record is very good, so we wanted to have him at 100 percent for Saturday.
“It was a wide barrier and we just weren’t sure where he was going to lob from out there.”
Hucklebuck started his winter campaign in the Group 3 Fred Best Classic (1350m) at Doomben on May 17 and overraced in the early stages of the race, forcing jockey Dom Tourneur to take the son of Elvstroem to the lead.
The CS Hayes Stakes winner tired in the final stages of the Fred Best Classic to finish fourth, but Stokes believes that Hucklebuck has taken plenty of benefit out of the run and is hopeful that he can defend his unbeaten second-up record in the Stradbroke Handicap this weekend.
“This is his biggest test to date, but we will give him his chance,” Stokes said.
“I flew up on Saturday to have a look at him and I was quite surprised how much he had tightened up from his first-up run.
“I am very happy with barrier one, I would rather have barrier one than 20.
“It is a big track and hopefully we get the luck.”
Hucklebuck ($5) is currently locked in a battle for 2014 Stradbroke Handicap favoritism with Srikandi ($5), while there has also been support for Spirit Of Boom ($7.50), Rebel Dane ($7.50) and Red Tracer ($10) in betting markets for the Group 1 event.
Stokes is chasing his first win at Group 1 level since he took out the 2013 edition of the Australasian Oaks with Maybe Discreet in 2013.