Co-trainer Michael Hawkes believes that the tight-turning Doomben circuit and step-up to 2000 metres will suit Leebaz when he makes his Group 1 debut in the 2014 Doomben Cup in Brisbane on Saturday.
Leebaz will be stepping-up to 2000 metres and racing at Doomben for the first time in his career, after taking out the Group 3 Hawkesbury Gold Cup over a mile at his last start on May 3, but Hawkes told Racing Ahead that he believes the Doomben Cup is the right race for the Zabeel gelding.
“It looks perfect,” Hawkes said.
“He is a high cruising horse and you just have to let him be wherever wants to be.
“Last start he was three wide, but James (McDonald) just opted to sit there and not panic and just let him cart him into the race.
“He has drawn a good barrier and he will jump and put himself right where he needs to be.
“I think that Doomben will suit him to be honest, even though he is a big striding horse, and it seems to be the right race.”
Team Hawkes have always had a high opinion of Leebaz and have patiently brought the four-year-old through the grades since he made his racing debut in April of last year, but are looking towards the 2014 Spring Racing Carnival with the gelding.
Hawkes said that the team will get a good understanding of where Leebaz sits in the pecking order at weight-for-age level over 2000 metres and believes that he could develop into a Cox Plate horse during his spring campaign.
“It is a sign getting towards the spring to see where we are going and see where we are at, at 2000.
“He is a Zabeel that has the good turn-of-foot and 2000 is probably right up his alley.
“He is not a dour Zabeel, he may get further later on, but I think that he is sort of that miler and 2000 metre.
“He could be maybe a Cox Plate horse, but realistically he is going to be a better horse next autumn and could turn into a Queen Elizabeth type of horse.
“He is a work in progress, we don’t get too carried away, and it is a big class ride on Saturday.
“As long as he keeps improving and raises the bar, the sky could be the limit.”
John Hawkes said after Leebaz took out the Hawkesbury Gold Cup that he would likely head to the spelling paddock, but Michael Hawkes said that the team was happy to give the progressive gelding an opportunity at Group 1 level in the Doomben Cup after he came through his Hawkesbury Gold Cup win in outstanding condition.
“He has just done everything right,” Hawkes said.
“I was away at Hawkesbury on the day and that was maybe going to be it, but he has done really well the horse.
“Everybody knows that we don’t pressure our horses too much and we let them do the talking and probably why we are heading that way is because he pulled up super.
“He is bouncing out of his walls when I got home on Tuesday morning and he was bright and looked well.
“He has just continued to improve and we made the call on Friday, after he did a little bit of work, and were happy with him.”
Leebaz is currently available at 2014 Doomben Cup odds of $4.50; with Streama ($4.20) currently a narrow from Leebaz and market mover Akzar ($5).