Reigning BTC Cup champion Albert The Fat is set to kick off his Brisbane Winter Carnival campaign in the Victory Stakes on Saturday facing a diminutive but classy field of sprinters lead by Group 1 winner Atomic Force.
Last May Magic Albert gelding Albert The Fat ran third in the Victory Stakes first-up before he became an elite level winner with a gritty victory beating home Melito in the Group 1 BTC Cup (1200m) and trainer Paul Messara is hoping the now six-year-old can return to form on way to another stint at Group 1 glory this season.
After the BTC Cup win, Albert The Fat went on to run a credible fifth beaten one and three quarter lengths by Black Piranha in the 2010 Stradbroke Handicap.
Brought back in the spring, Albert The Fat failed to finish better than fourth at his next three starts and hasn’t raced since crossing a disappointing 12th behind Wall Street in the Emirates Stakes back in November.
On Saturday Albert The Fat has drawn the far outside barrier seven in the seven-horse field for the $175,000 Group 2 Victory Stakes (1200m).
Albert The Fat has also been nominated to defend his BTC Cup title at Doomben on May 14 but will have a tough test coming up against the world’s fastest horse Black Caviar.
Coming up trumps with the inside alley for the Victory Stakes is Albert The Fat’s biggest threat, the Darren Smith-trained Atomic Force.
Smith’s in-form Danehill Dancer gelding Atomic Force has won three of their past four starts including their maiden Group 1 success last start on April 16 in The Galaxy (1100m) at Randwick.
In The Galaxy Atomic Force easily defeated Thankgodyou’rehere by a comprehensive three lengths showing the ideal form connections are hoping will continue in the Victory Stakes as they head towards a possible clash with Caviar in the BTC Cup.
“I’m not sure where he’s headed and I want to see how he goes on Saturday first,” Smith said.
“The Stradbroke (Handicap) is definitely out.”
To date Atomic Force has had just one run in Queensland when a close third to Temple Of Boom in the Magic Millions Sprint (1000m) at the Gold Coast in January.
“He’s been to the Gold Coast in January for the Magic Millions Sprint so I’m just going to take things race by race with him,” Smith said.
A slick track gallop earlier this week showed Smith that Atomic Force had come through The Galaxy in fine form and was fit to continue.
“I know he’s had a long campaign,” Smith said of Atomic Force.
“But he’s come through his Galaxy win in great order.”
Leading local trainer Robert Heathcote also has a strong presence in the Victory Stakes this year represented by his Group winning Mossman gelding Buffering (barrier four) and Show A Heart five-year-old Woorim (barrier six).
A super consistent three-year-old, Buffering has started 11 times for six wins and three minor placings.
His biggest win so far came at Randwick last October where Buffering won the Group 2 Roman Consul Stakes (1200m) having previously finished second in the Group 2 Danehill Stakes (1200m) at Flemington in September.
Buffering is first-up for the season in the Victory Stakes having run a game fourth to Star Witness in the Group 1 Coolmore Stud Stakes (1200m) on Derby Day last start.
On March 15 Buffering ran a blistering 800m hitout in 0.45.15 at Eagle Farm with Larry Cassidy, booked for the Victory Stakes also, in the mount.
Buffering also enjoyed a polished track gallop last Saturday along with Woorim over 1000m.
“I wanted Buffering to have a good test,” Heathcote said.
“He’s been a big behind with a frustrating little niggle in the past few weeks.
“But he stepped up to the mark nicely in the gallop.
“There was nothing between the two horses at the finish.
“Larry (Cassidy) said the horse felt good after the gallop. He said he was above 90 per cent fit and there will be further improvement.”
Rounding out the Victory Stakes field are Richie Stephenson’s Toowoomba galloper Azzaland (barrier two) coming off back-to-back wins including their last start victory in the Bribie Handicap, the Kelso Wood-trained Zero Rock (barrier five) who ran second to Bold Glance in the Magic Millions Cup at their most recent run and seven-year-old Beaudesert-trained mare My First Affair (barrier three).
Jockey Shane Scriven has been granted a stay of proceedings against his five-month suspension for whip stealing allowing him to take the mount on Azzaland in the Victory Stakes on Saturday.
The Victory Stakes is one of two Group features at Eagle Farm this Saturday along with the $125,000 Group 3 Gunsynd Classic (1600m).
2011 Brisbane Racing Club Victory Stakes Final Field & Barrier Draw
|#||Form (Last 10)||Horse||Trainer||Jockey||Barrier||Weight||Hcp. Rating|
|1||X3105X040X||ALBERT THE FAT||Paul Messara||Eddie Wilkinson||7||58.5kg||106|
|2||1X23361141||ATOMIC FORCE||Darren Smith||Glen Colless||1||58.5kg||106|
|3||11X83390X4||WOORIM||Robert Heathcote||Damian Browne||6||58.5kg||100|
|4||214X221X11||AZZALAND||Richie Stephenson||Shane Scriven||2||58.5kg||104|
|5||222X11152X||ZERO ROCK||Kelso Wood||Chris Munce||5||56.5kg||105|
|6||13X122124X||BUFFERING||Robert Heathcote||Larry Cassidy||4||56.5kg||98|
|7||47730X0X00||MY FIRST AFFAIR||David Pendergast||Michael Palmer||3||56.5kg||78|