Stradbroke Handicap hopefuls Hucklebuck and Havana get their last chance to stakes claims for the Winter Carnival feature sprint when they line up in the Group 2 $350,000 Sky Racing Queensland Guineas (1400m) at Eagle Farm on Saturday.
The winner of the Queensland Guineas is exempt from the ballot for the Group 1 $1.36m AAMI Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) at Eagle Farm on Saturday week with both Hucklebuck and Havana both prominent in Stradbroke betting.
While Hucklebuck is already guaranteed a start at number fourteen in the Stradbroke Handicap order of entry, Havana at number twenty-three on the list needs to win the Queensland Guineas to gain automatic entry into the final field of eighteen.
The Phillip Stokes trained Hucklebuck hasn’t been given any favours coming up with the visitors’ draw in the Queensland Guineas at barrier fifteen in the original draw with four of the five emergencies drawing inside him.
And Hucklebuck was out of luck at his first Winter Carnival start when he over raced in the lead for Dom Tourneur in the early and middle stages before fading to finish fourth to Havana in the Group 3 $125,000 Ascend Sales Trophies Fred Best Classic (1350m) at Doomben on May 17.
While the Paul Messara trained Havana has come up with some early points after drawing in close at gate four after jumping from barrier two in the Fred Best Classic with Luke Nolen getting the run of the race in behind the leaders.
Stokes is willing to forgive Hucklebuck’s first up fourth when favourite and says the Elvstroem three year old will strip a much fitter race horse on Saturday with Tourneur to ride again.
“I always knew he’d be a bit vulnerable first-up over 1350 metres, and I told you that last week,” Stokes told Racing Network.
“He pulled up really well, had a real good blow after the race and will go into the Guineas when he’ll be a fitter horse.”
But Stokes is yet to commit to a Stradbroke Handicap start until after he sees what eventuates on Saturday.
“We’ll run in that race then assess where he’s at before we decide his next move,” Stokes said.
As usual the Queensland Guineas has attracted a full field of eighteen plus five emergencies with the Gerald Ryan trained Dothraki to carry the number one saddle cloth as well as drawing the coveted number one barrier with Nash Rawiller to ride again.
Dothraki, who is sixteenth in the Stradbroke Handicap order of entry, has received a prizemoney cheque at both his Queensland Winter Carnival starts and after winning the Group 3 $125,000 Attwood Marshall Lawyers Gold Coast Guineas (1200m) at the Gold Coast on May 3, finished third to Havana at Doomben.
Top local jockey Chris Munce will have to be at his best on Into The Red after the Kelso Wood trained colt came up with the nightmare gate of nineteen in the original draw and will still be out in the car park even when the emergencies are withdrawn.
Into The Red had put himself into contention for the Queensland Guineas after running second at big odds to Havana in the Fred Best Classic.
John O’Shea will saddle up two runners with Michael Rodd to ride Safeguard from barrier twelve and Kerrin McEvoy to partner Agadir who has come up with gate nine.
Gold Coast trainer Gillian Heinrich’s luck has finally run out with her three year old Eastern Prince drawing the extreme outside gate at twenty three.
Eastern Prince capped off a memorable week for Heinrich when he became her sixth winner for the week when he won the Listed $100,000 Nuturf Queensland Day (1200m) at Doomben last Saturday after the Gold Coast trainer had saddled up a career best five winners at Ipswich midweek.