As the clouds continue to roll into Brisbane and the rain looking ready to fall over the Eagle Farm track, Robert Heathcote’s genuine galloper Woorim has surprisingly firmed into the favourite for the day’s feature showdown, the $1 million Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap (1400m).
Show A Heart five-year-old Woorim has been well-liked in the markets for Queensland’s richest sprint since his fast finishing victory in the Group 3 BRC Sprint (1350m) at Doomben on May 21.
The gelding, however, has gained huge popularity with the punters overnight Woorim now the firm $6 favourite to hand Brisbane’s premier trainer Rob Heathcote with his maiden Group 1 victory.
Woorim was sitting around $8 in the Stradbroke odds earlier this week with the winning Doomben 10,000 trifecta dominating the markets.
Peter Snowden’s 10,000 winner Beaded, the Hawkes-trained runner-up Love Conquers All and third placegetter Black Piranha, vying for an unprecedented third straight Stradbroke win, are now equal $6.50 second elects for the Stradbroke.
Currently the course proper at Eagle Farm is rated a Good (3), however, with the Bureau of Meteorology predicting rain this afternoon in time for the Stradbroke Handicap at 3:40pm, the track condition could be downgraded.
With Heathcote stating Woorim needs a dry track to win the Stradbroke, the big money on the horse has surprised a few.
A winner of seven of their 28 career starts to date, Woorim was originally drawn wide with barrier 18 for his Stradbroke assault.
The five emergencies for the sprint showdown, however, have been scratched this morning meaning Woorim moves in and will now jump from gate 15 in the 18-horse Stradbroke Handicap field.
Heathcote continues to gain confidence that he will be the horse to land him his first thoroughbred elite level, despite the weather quickly turning against Woorim’s liking.
Woorim came close to a breakthrough Group 1 victory during last year’s Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival when third, beaten just half a length, in the Sir Rupert Clark Stakes at Caulfield.
Today, Heathcote is hoping to go two better.
“Nothing will finish faster than Woorim,” he said.
“When he won the BRC Sprint people showed plenty of attention to the finishing burst, but he’d shown it four or five times before.
“He’ll need it from barrier 18 (now 15).
“He’ll be giving a lot of good horses a start.
“He’ll need his afterburners on.”
Another person firmly on the Woorim bandwagon is Luxbet’s chief bookmaker Paul Vincent.
“Woorim ticks all the boxes for me here following a top win last start,” Vincent told Races.com.au.
“He’s well suited back to Eagle Farm and drops 3kg for that (the BRC Sprint) victory.
“The wide gate is of no concern and he’ll get back in the field.”
Heathcote is going for a fifth, successive feature win during the Brisbane Winter Carnival and will also be represented by Buffering in the Stradbroke Handicap, the horse a $41 outsider.
Mossman three-year-old ran a credible third to superstar mare Black Caviar on the opening Brisbane Carnival meeting in the Group 1 BTC Cup (1200m) before fading to finish dead-last in the Doomben 10,000.
Heathcote admits it has been a solid carnival for his stable so far, but a win in the Stradbroke would be his career highlight.
“We had two Group 3 winners on Black Caviar Day (BTC Cup Day), and Buffering ran third in the Group 1,” he said.
“We’ve had a good carnival.
“It is nice to have horses competitive throughout the feature carnival days, let alone win races.
“We aim to have the better horses in the stable peaking through the carnival, and luckily enough it has worked.”
On the brink of a third Brisbane training premiership win, Heathcote could have as many as three black-type wins today.
He is also preparing to saddle up Jet Spur filly Little Miss Vicky in the opening race on the card, the $100,000 Listed Lancaster Stakes (1200m), and rising eight-year-old Our Lukas in Race 3, the $80,000 Listed Strawberry Road Handicap (1600m).
“Our Lukas is following exactly the same program he has done for the last two years when he has won the Ipswich Cup,” Heathcote said.
“Little Miss Vicky is a two-year-old who has had the one start for a good win at Ipswich.
“She is above average, and from barrier three, I think she’ll be competitive.”