Team Hawkes has confirmed that progressive gelding Leebaz will make his Group 1 debut in the 2014 Doomben Cup in Brisbane this weekend.
Leebaz is one of only ten horses that remain in the nominations for the Group 1 Doomben Cup (2000m), with the final field to be released on Wednesday, and John Hawkes told TVN that the Zabeel gelding will take his place in the field for the $500,000 event, despite indicating a week ago that the four-year-old would be sent to the spelling paddock following his win in the Group 3 Hawkesbury Gold Cup (1600m).
“He’s earned his chance, his form has been good,” Hawkes said.
“It’s a different race at weight-for-age.
It’s a big step, but we will give him a chance and we’ve got nothing to lose.”
Leebaz suffered a slight injury when making his racing debut with a fifth place finish in the Only A Little Bit Over Maiden (1309m) at Seymour on April 27 last year before breaking his maiden with a dominant performance in the Mullet Creek Plate (1500m) at Kembla Grange on May 30.
After a stint in the spelling paddock, Leebaz started his spring campaign with a narrow win at Hawkesbury on September 22 and led all the way to win the ATC Premiership 4Tracks4Kids Handicap (1550m) at Randwick on October and was denied a third straight win by Index Linked in the Bartier Perry Handicap (1600m) at the same venue on October 19.
Leebaz was set for a Group 1 Doncaster Mile (1600m) campaign during the 2014 Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival and appeared on track to quality for the field after taking out the Ezymart Handicap (1400m) at Royal Randwick on February 22 and the Pro-Ride Handicap (1600m) at Warwick Farm on March 20, but missed out on a place in the field for the Group 1 event when he was beaten by imported galloper Weary in the Group 3 Doncaster Prelude (1500m) at Rosehill Gardens on April 5.
Leebaz ($3.80) is currently a narrow favourite in 2014 Doomben Cup betting markets from triple Group 1 winner Streama ($4), Warrnambool Cup winner Akzar ($4.20), Chris Waller-trained Junoob ($5.50) and tough gelding Mr O’Ceirin ($8).
Team Hawkes is chasing their first win in the Doomben Cup after finishing second with Octapussy in 2006 and Freemason in 2003 and third with Freemason in 2002 and Shame in 1997.