Leading Queensland trainer Robert Heathcote is relying on Solzhenitsyn’s versatility to be the key to handling the tricky Caulfield track when the six year old lines up in the Group 1 $400,000 Clamms Seafood Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes (1400m) on Sunday.
Heathcote will heed the advice of locals and instruct Corey Brown to take advantage of the good barrier draw and have Solzhenitsyn in the first half of the fifteen horse field.
“They tell me Caulfield’s a track that it’s advantageous to be up on, or near, the speed in 1400-metre races, so I don’t think he’ll be too far off the speed on Sunday,” Heathcote said.
“He actually led in Queensland in one of his wins and from barrier two he’s got the speed to take a handy position.”
Even though the majority of the six year olds wins have been come from well back in the field with a strong finish, jockey Michael Rodd surprised everybody when he bounced Solzhenitsyn to the front for an all the way win in the Group 3 $115,000 WFA Carlton Mid Lord Mayor’s Cup (1600m) at Doomben on May 19.
With his light weight, good barrier and the ability to be placed in the first half of the field, Heathcote is giving Solzhenitsyn a realistic chance of being in the finish.
“Rightly or wrongly, the Rupert Clarke tends to be one of those races that throws up a debutante Group 1 winner, a horse on the up, and I think Solzhenitsyn fits that bill,” Heathcote said.
“He’s created a real impression at home because he’s won four on the trot but it’s not just that, it’s the way with which he’s won them. He’s won a Group 3 carrying a big weight and his last start he was pretty dominant against a pretty good horse in Bold Glance.”
“He is putting together a nice record, but he’s now got to front up against Melbourne’s good horses and that’s not going be easy.”
Heathcote went to Caulfield two years ago with high hopes for his smart sprinter Woorim in the Sir Rupert Clarke but the then five year old took up his usual pattern of racing and after settling worse than midfield ran home to run third, only half a length behind Response.
“The Rupert Clarke is a race that we believe Woorim should have won two years ago,” Heathcote said.
“Response won it and Woorim was flying home and just missed by two strides, so we’re hoping to rectify that.”
But Heathcote wasn’t far off the mark and returned to Caulfield with Woorim to take out the Group 1 $400,000 Sportingbet Oakleigh Plate (1100m) at Caulfield early this year.
Solzhenitsyn created a huge impression during the winter with three wins and as well as winning the Lord Mayor’s Cup, the gelding took out the Listed $80,000 XXXX Gold Strawberry Road Handicap (1600m) at Eagle Farm before Heathcote sent him for a spell.
The six year old had no trouble putting away a small field first-up coming from back near the tail to score an easy win over 1350m in an Open Handicap at Doomben.
Heathcote is confident Solzhenitsyn will perform admirably on Sunday and has picked out the Group 1 $400,000 David Jones Toorak Handicap (1600m) at Caulfield on October 13 and the Group 1 $1m Emirates Stakes (1600m) at Flemington on the final day of the Melbourne Cup Carnival as the gelding’s major Spring assignments.
Solzhenitsyn currently shares the second line of betting for the Sir Rupert Clarke at $6.50 with the Mark Kavanagh trained We’re Gonna Rock while Peter Moody’s Moment Of Change holds onto favouritism at $4.
Last start Sydney winner Pinwheel is next in line at $7 with Shanghai Warrior at $10.