Premier Brisbane trainer Robert Heathcote is preparing to saddle up six of his stable stars for this Saturday’s Queensland Oaks Day and despite the hype surrounding his better known runners, the horseman holds high hopes that Heartshaker will kick the day off on a winning note.
Show A Heart gelding Heartshaker is the first horse representing Heathcote at Eagle Farm on Saturday, the five-year-old due to contest the $50,000 Mittys Class 6 Plate (1800m).
Drawn ideally in barrier three and to be ridden by hoop of the moment Luke Nolen, Heartshaker is a four-time winner from 20 starts to date and comes into Saturday’s showdown on the back of a game third place finish behind Steel Lips in a 1615m handicap at Doomben on May 28.
“Heart Shaker is the best genuine chance (of the day),” Heathcote said.
Heathcote will also be eagerly awaiting the feature race on Saturday, the $400,000 Group 1 Queensland Oaks (2400m) for which he has two live-wire fillies lining up.
Despite having trained a plethora of winners over his career, a Group 1 trophy has eluded Heathcote as yet.
“I’m very hopeful it will come one day,” he said.
“Maybe even this Saturday in the Oaks.”
In the Queensland Oaks Heathcote’s top chance is considered to be Fillydelphia drawn in barrier 11 and also set to be ridden by Nolen.
With Oaks betting is dominated by smart Kiwi filly Scarlett Lady at $3.40, Fillydelphia’s wide draw has seen her open at $10 to claim an upset.
The Bianconi three-year-old showed excellent form winning the Group 3 Rough Habit Plate (2020m) by an easy three lengths on May 14 at Doomben before most recently finishing three quarters of a length away fourth to Turnitup in the Group 3 Grand Prix Stakes (2200m) last Saturday.
“She did have a chance to go past the leading two (in the Grand Prix Stakes),” Heathcote said.
“There was no excuse.”
He also believes coming back to a fillies-only affair will boost Fillydelphia’s hopes on Saturday.
“The step up from 2000m where she was dominant against the boys…she got found out over the 2200 metres,” Heathcote said.
With her double-figure draw, Heathcote predicts Fillydelphia will sit around seventh or eighth after settling.
“She’ll be a little bit further back in the Oaks,” he said.
“The Oaks is generally won by the horses that see out a strong 24 hundred metres.”
The big thing in Fillydelphia’s favour according to her trainer is having Nolen in the mount.
“Luke is oozing charisma and the confident is flowing out of him at the moment,” Heathcote said.
“Everything’s just going right for Luke.”
Heathcote’s other Oaks hope is Hidden Kisses, drawn to perfection in gate four.
A jockey for the Hidden Dragon filly is yet to be confirmed after the suspension of Larry Cassidy yesterday.
Cassidy had previously ridden Hidden Kisses in all four of her starts this season.
After two good runs back in April, Hidden Kisses has failed to run on of late finishing sixth in the Listed Gold Coast Bracelet (1800m) on May 7 before her last-start seventh behind Oaks favourite Scarlett Lady in the Group 3 The Roses (2020m) on May 21.
As such she is rated a $26 outsider in the Oaks markets but Heathcote believes this price is a bit generous believing Hidden Kisses will easily get the distance.
“A dry track will certainly help her,” he said.
“Larry (Cassidy) and I are confident going into this race that she’ll see out the 2400 (metres), it’s just whether she has the class factor.”
Other horses accepted at Eagle Farm for Heathcote this weekend are Acquired in the $200,000 Group 2 Dane Ripper Stakes (1400m), Exceed And Excel four-year-old Outstandingly in the $175,000 Group 2 QTC Cup (1300m) and last-start Gold Coast winner Simmering who is the third emergency for the $125,000 Listed Daybreak Lover (1400m).
His number of starters could be cut, however, Heathcote saying O’Reilly mare Acquired may be scratched from the Dane Ripper Stakes.
After Acquired drew wide with barrier 20 for the female feature, Heathcote said theBy may hold off and go to a mile race with her next week.
Heathcote also revealed that Acquired had been purchased by new connections throughout the week.
She is now being raced by Geoff Grimish, who also owns majority shares in Group 1 winning horse Shellscrape.
“Geoff’s a prominent breeder,” Heathcote said.
“Acquired looks to have a destiny date with Shellscrape during the spring.”
Two of Heathcote’s leading stablemates Buffering and Woorim are also reportedly on track for Saturday week’s $1 million Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap (1400m).
Mossman three-year-old Buffering lost quite a few admirers last Saturday when they finished dead-last in the Group 1 Doomben 10,000 (1350m) and as such has drifted out to $34 in the Stradbroke Handicap markets.
“People now think he won’t get the distance of the Stradbroke,” Heathcote said.
“I’m willing to put a line straight through that race.”
After missing the start in the 10,000, Buffering failed to make up the ground with jockey Larry Cassidy forced to abandon plans to ride the BTC Cup third placegetter at the front of the field.
“The plan was to go straight to the front (but) it was one of those unfortunate racing incidents,” Heathcote explained.
“His hindquarters hit the gate and half opened the gate.
“It meant the horse was half a length, a touch slow away.
“He (Cassidy) then made the decision to take sit in behind the leading two.
“This was all foreign to Buffering and it caused him to over race fiercely.”
Heathcote remains adamant that Buffering will bounce back in the Stradbroke.
“We will certainly use his good gate speed and his front running style to his advantage,” he said.
The other horse heading towards the Stradbroke from Heathcote’s stables is Woorim.
Well-liked in the Straddie markets paying $8, Show A Heart gelding Woorim qualified for a start in Queensland’s richest sprint after their gritty final stride win in the Group 3 BRC Sprint (1350m) at Doomben on May 21.
Heathcote described Woorim as a “genuine Stradbroke horse” and said Corey Brown had been booked for the ride Saturday week.