Progressive gelding Leebaz was extremely well-backed in the lead-up to the 2014 Hawkesbury Gold Cupand justified the support of punters to score his maiden win at Group level at the standalone Hawkesbury meeting this afternoon.
Leebaz was settled just behind the leaders Malavio and The Great Snowman and looked to over race in the early stages of the race before hitting the front at the 250 metre mark.
Darley-owned mare Wistful loomed as though she was going to challenge Leebaz at the 100 metre mark, but the Zabeel gelding was too strong in the final stages of the race and improved his racing record to six wins from nine starts.
Leebaz was included in the nominations for the Group 1 Doomben Cup (2000m) that were released earlier in the week and is rated one of the favourites for the weight-for-age event, but trainer John Hawkes revealed that the four-year-old is unlikely to contest the race and will be sent for a stint in the spelling paddock.
“He did all that he had to do and he got the job done,” Hawkes said.
“He will most probably go to the paddock I think; we will see how he pulls up and the boys and I will have a talk about it.
“It is really about the horse, but I honestly think that he will go to the paddock.
“I think that he is a potential Group 1 horse in the autumn and the spring and we have been really patient up to now; the horse will tell us.”
Jockey James McDonald was critical of his own ride on Leebaz when he finished second behind Weary in the Group 3 Doncaster Prelude (1500m) at Rosehill Gardens on April 5 and admitted that he felt the pressure heading into the Hawkesbury Gold Cup this afternoon.
The leading hoop admitted that everything did not go to plan during the run and said that he had a little bit of trouble getting the four-year-old to settle in the early stages of the race.
“It was very good; the form was outstanding and he was always going to be hard to beat today,” McDonald said.
“As it turned out the race didn’t go to script, but at least we got away with a win.
“He settled ok in parts of the race and he switched off ok when he found a bum and as soon as he go open he started tugging.
“It was problem the safest way to ride a $1.50 favourite.”