Caulfield-based trainer Mick Price has confirmed that his Queensland Derby scratching, Echoes Of Heaven, is in the paddock spelling ahead of a hopeful spring comeback targeting the Sandown Classic.
The $350,000 Group 2 Sandown Classic (2400m), set to run in mid-November at the end of the prestigious Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival, has belonged to just one horse in recent history.
Lloyd William’s gallant old gelding Zipping scored his record fourth successive Sandown Classic victory last year.
This year a number of new horses on the scene will look to begin their own dominance in the end-of-season showdown including Echoes Of Heaven.
The well-bred Encosta De Lago colt was in top form over the past few months earning their shot at Group 1 glory in Brisbane’s Queensland Derby at Eagle Farm last Saturday.
Echoes Of Heaven, however, was withdrawn from the three-year-olds feature due to a bout of colitis.
“I was so looking forward to the Queensland Derby with him,” Price admitted.
Having raced 11 times for three wins and two minor placings to date, Echoes Of Heaven most recent win was in the Listed Port Adelaide Guineas (1800m) at Morphettville on April 16.
His other runs during the autumn – winter season included a third behind Kittens in the Group 3 Chairman’s Stakes (2020m) at Morphettville on April 30, a close second behind Shadows Of The Sun in the Group 1 S.A. Derby (2500m) on May 8 and most recently a credible fifth, beaten less than a length, by Turnitup in the Group 3 Grand Prix Stakes (2200m) at Doomben on May 28.
“I know the Grand Prix form didn’t stack up in the Derby but he’s a big-track horse and would have been suited by the 2400 metres,” Price said.
Following the Grand Prix Stakes, Echoes Of Heaven was struck down with an acute case of colitis which saw the progressive galloper lose condition very quickly.
“He probably lost 60 kilos,” Price said.
Moving forward and looking towards the upcoming spring, Price is confident Echoes Of Heaven can make a full recovery and finally add a Group race win to their record.
“I think by the time I repair him he might end up in the Sandown Classic because I’ll run out of time for those (Group 1 spring) races,” Price said.
Another well-performing three-year-old from this season targeting the Sandown Classic is Heidilicious.
The John Sadler-trained Zabeel filly ran a brave third finishing less than a half-length away from winner Shootoff in the Queensland Derby (2400m) last Saturday.
Sadler admitted before the Derby run that the Sandown Classic looked the most suitable race for the up-and-coming mare.
Her gallant Group 1 placing against the boys, however, could see Heidilicious aimed at the bigger spring features.