Two-time Group 1 winner Solzhenitsyn will have his first race start, since having throat surgery, in the 2014 Victory Stakes and trainer Robert Heathcote admits that he is unsure how the tough gelding will respond under race pressure in the Group 2 event at Eagle Farm on Saturday.
Solzhenitsyn recorded his second straight win in the Group 1 Toorak Handicap (1600m) during the 2013 Spring Racing Carnival, but finished his campaign with poor performances in the Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) and the Group 1 Emirates Stakes (1600m) and it was found after the race that part of his breathing apparatus had collapsed.
Heathcote told Racing Ahead that Solzhenitsyn had recovered well from the operation and had performed strongly in a barrier trial over 1000 metres at Doomben on April 8, but said that he would not get a proper indication about whether the operation had been a success until he sees the St Petersburg gelding race on Saturday.
“He is well,” Heathcote said.
“It will once again be heart in the mouth stuff as they get to the home turn and he will probably be three or four lengths tailed off at the rear seemingly uninterested; he has done that more than once in his career.
“He has had a throat operation since he last raced down in the spring and he has had a couple of serious hit-outs and he has won them, but it is a whole world of difference between the pressure of a barrier trial and a jump out and a Group 2 race.”
Solzhenitsyn has previously won on three occasions over 1200 metres, but Heathcote admits that the 2014 Victory Stakes is well short of his best distance and expects the veteran gelding to settle at the tail of the field.
Heathcote is confident that the expected quick tempo will be an advantage for Solzhenitsyn and believes he is a winning chance if he reproduces his first-up effort from his last autumn campaign where he finished third behind Pierro and More Joyous in the Group 1 Canterbury Stakes (1300m).
“They are certainly not going to be loafing with Snitzerland there,” Heathcote said.
“It is at the furlong where we will see if this surgery has worked.
“We know that 1200 metres is certainly short of his best distance, but it wasn’t that long ago that he lined up first-up in the Canterbury Stakes against Pierro and More Joyous and ran them to a neck.
“A repeat of that first-up run would certainly put him in the finish of this race.”
Solzhenitsyn is currently available at 2014 Victory Stakes odds of $10; with Snitzerland ($2) currently a dominant favourite from Spirit Of Boom ($4.20), Famous Seamus ($6.50) and Fire Up Fifi ($9).