Leading local Eagle Farm-based trainer Robert Heathcote has more than just the impending rain to worry about ahead of Saturday’s Stradbroke Handicap showdown after his top chance in the classic, Woorim, drew a horror barrier.
Five-year-old Show A Heart gelding Woorim has been one of the best-backed of the $1 million Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) hopefuls in the early markets after their gallant final-stride victory in the Group 3 BRC Sprint (1350m) at Doomben on May 21.
Heathcote accepted both Woorim and stablemate Buffering for the Stradbroke, the pair drawing barriers 18 and 10 respectively this afternoon.
Woorim is allocated 53kg for the Stradbroke, jockey Corey Brown to earn his fee with plenty to do on Saturday from the disaster draw.
With the five Stradbroke Handicap emergencies not gaining a start, Woorim will still only come in three gates at best.
“It’s not a major disaster, but it’s certain a disaster,” Heathcote said of the barrier draw.
“I would have liked to be in around 8 – 10.
“He will get back three or four more than I would have liked from that draw.”
Still, Heathcote was remaining optimistic ahead of the big race.
“I’m really happy with him,” Heathcote continued.
“It was perfect for us when he won the BRC Sprint, that way we could go straight into the Stradbroke.
“He’ll be lining up on Saturday ready to go and I just hope the track’s dry for him.
“He’s a genuine Group 1 horse, I have no doubts on that.”
One thing Heathcote does have his doubts about, however, is how his Group winning Mossman gelding Buffering will go stepping up to the 1400m on Saturday for the first time.
“Definitely a concern over 1400 (metres) and it’s fair to say he hasn’t been tested,” Heathcote admitted.
Still, the record is there to suggest improvement with the super consistent Buffering finishing out of the money just twice over his solid 14 start career to date.
His first unplaced run was a very credible fourth to Danny O’Brien’s now international campaigner Star Witness in the Group 1 Coolmore Classic (1200m) on Derby Day last year at Flemington.
First-up this season Buffering was the talk of the town when he easily beat home Group 1 The Galaxy winner Atomic Force in the Group 2 Victory Stakes (1200m) on April 30.
Next start they finished a brave third behind superstar Black Caviar in the Group 1 BTC Cup (1200m), but Buffering lost a lot of admirers in his last-start flop when last home behind now Stradbroke favourite Beaded in the Group 1 Doomben 10,000 over 1350m.
His trainer, however, believes if any horse will put in their all in the Stradbroke it will be Buffering.
“He’s a tough little honest bulldog,” Heathcote said.
Also, with the favourites drawn wide for the Stradbroke including Doomben 10,000 winner Beaded (barrier 17) and runner-up Love Conquers All (barrier 16), Heathcote believes Buffering may get one of the best runs of the race.
“Buffering in barrier 10 may not be so bad,” he said with hopefulness.