Premier Brisbane trainer Robert Heathcote isn’t shying away from that fact he faces a formidable task tomorrow as he prepares to give his gallant old galloper Our Lukas the chance to win an unprecedented Ipswich Cup hat-trick.
“There’s no hiding from the fact that it’s a herculean task,” Heathcote admitted.
A rising eight-year-old Generous gelding, Our Lukas won both the 2009 and 2010 Ipswich Cups, but with their last win being in the Seymour Cup (1600m) in October of last year, even Heathcote has his doubts history will be made on Saturday.
“It’s going to be tough,” Heathcote said.
“It’s plain to see he’s down on his form compared to his previous two Ipswich Cup wins.”
Heathcote admits that Our Lukas hasn’t been performing up to par this preparation, but why he just can’t say.
“No apparent reason (for the track flops),” Heathcote said.
“We’ve done lots of tests and his trackwork has been sensational.
“He looks great and seems to be in great spirits but he’s just not racing with the same enthusiasm and zest of the last couple of years.”
The middle-distance galloper’s best effort from five runs was a brave second to subsequent Doomben Cup winner Scenic Shot, coming within a neck of the warhorse in the Listed Winning Edge Member’s Handicap (1600m) at Eagle Farm on April 23.
Our Lukas has had three runs since, finishing a disappointing seventh, eighth and then 11th.
Still, the class of horse he has come up against has been high.
On May 7 he was seventh to Chris Waller’s star import My Kingdom Of Fife in the Group 2 Hollindale Stakes (1800m) at the Gold Coast.
Next start he failed to beat home any runners when dead last behind winner Firebolt in the Group 3 Lord Mayor’s Cup (1615m).
Most recently Our Lukas was five lengths away 11th behind Willy Jimmy in the Listed Strawberry Road Handicap (1600m) at Eagle Farm on Stradbroke Handicap Day.
Despite the poor form, Heathcote remains hopeful that Our Lukas can get back to business and start to show the same quality running that he has continued to produce in trackwork at home.
“At home his trackwork has been super and he looks well but he’s just not racing all that well,” Heathcote said.
“We’re going into the race tomorrow hopeful.
“He’s got a good barrier (two).
“It’s essential Shane (Scriven, jockey) gets him to jump and run and if he can be up on the speed and recover some of his old form we know he can be competitive.”
Along with some less-than-impressive recent runs, Our Lukas must also produce a weight-carrying record to win the 2011 Ipswich Cup with 58kg.
The most weight an Ipswich Cup winner has carted to victory over the race’s 150-year history was Golden Rhapsody with 56.5kg back in 1981.
After being allocated just 53kg for his inaugural Ipswich Cup win in 2009, 12 months ago Our Lukas just hung on in the final stride with 56kg when ridden by the late, great Stathi Katsidis on both occasions.
Heathcote doesn’t believe in a form turnaround, just getting a horse ready for when it’s really needed, quoting the win by Stephen Farley’s gun three-year-old Sincero in last Saturday’s $1 million Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) at Eagle Farm as an example of a trainer planning for a ‘grand final’ race.
“What was said to be the form turnaround of Sincero, he put in only an ordinary run in the QTC Cup and then he comes back to the Stradbroke to win,” Heathcote said.
“That’s what I’m hoping for tomorrow with Our Lukas.
“I’ve replicated the same kind of programme (as the last two years) and he’s back to the track he likes.”
Win, lose or draw in the Ipswich Cup third time round Heathcote plans to send Our Lukas straight to the paddock for a spell not opting to press onto the upcoming Queensland and northern New South Wales cups like the $200,000 Caloundra Cup on July 2.
“He’ll go to the paddock,” Heathcote said.
“We’ve had a couple of cracks at the Caloundra Cup over the 2400 (metres) and I don’t think he sees out the trip.
“I think he’s a 2000 metre horse to be honest.
“He has 58 kilos in the Ipswich Cup and he’s only going to get more.”
After a break, Heathcote hopes to have seen enough from Our Lukas to warrant a trip down to the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival next season.
“Hopefully we can re-find that old form of his for a venture down south,” he said.
Heathcote said defending his title in the $125,000 Listed Seymour Cup (1600m) in mid October would be the likely main Melbourne aim for Our Lukas.
“Might try for that (the Seymour Cup) again this year.”
While still debating on whether his seventh-placed Group 1 Queensland Oaks runner Fillydelphia had earned a trip down south as well, Heathcote confirmed his Stradbroke Handicap starters Buffering and Woorim would both be sent to Melbourne for the spring.
“At this stage I’ll be taking the other two away,” he said.
Mossman gelding Buffering ran a brave fourth behind Sincero beaten just two and a half lengths in the Stradbroke Handicap while their more fancied stablemate Woorim couldn’t reproduce their Group 3 BRC Sprint winning form when finishing seventh in the sprint feature last Saturday.
Heathcote reported that both horses had come through the run well.
“Buffering did us proud, he did a super effort,” Heathcote said.
“He ran a really strong Stradbroke, admittedly he may have been tiering the last 50 metres but he ran really well.”
Along with Our Lukas, Heathcote has nine other runners from his stable engaged over the Ipswich Cup Day races tomorrow including Gundy Son in the $175,000 Listed Eye Liner Stakes (1350m).
Coming off a gritty win in the Listed Chief De Beers (1110m) at Doomben on May 28, five-year-old Falvelon gelding Gundy Son is the $6 second elect for the Eye Liner Stakes due to jump from barrier two.
“It looks a race that may well suit him,” Heathcote said.
“He’s drawn a perfect marble in two.
“He’ll just need a little bit of luck getting out of the ruck.
“I expect him to be very hard to beat.
“Clearly the step up to 1350m will be well to his liking.
“He’s the type of horse that likes to get out and just relax.”