Robert Heathcote’s budding spring hopeful Woorim sent an early warning to his rivals for next season, the ever-gallant five-year-old setting a weight carrying record to win last Saturday’s $175,000 Listed Glasshouse Handicap (1400m) at Caloundra.
After earlier setting up for an exciting Brisbane Winter Carnival campaign with a gritty win in the Group 3 BRC Sprint (1350m) at Doomben on May 21, Show A Heart gelding Woorim progressed onto Queensland’s richest sprint – the $1 million Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap (1400m).
In the Eagle Farm feature on June 11, Woorim and jockey Corey Brown were badly blocked for a run, failing to get into the clear but still managing to battle on and finish a brave seventh beaten four lengths by runaway winner Sincero.
Heathcote then set Woorim for another stakes race, this time up at the Sunshine Coast, to defend his title in the Glasshouse Handicap.
After the testing Stradbroke run, an awkward barrier 13 draw and then being allocated the hefty topweight of 58.5kg to defend their title with, Woorim easily saluted in the Glasshouse for a second year in a row.
Not only did Woorim set a new weight carrying record, but he also entered the history books as the first successive Glasshouse Handicap winner, and just the second dual winner alongside Rancho’s Coup (1995 and 1997).
Showing strength and stamina, Woorim ($6) was reunited with regular rider Damian Brown last Saturday and the pair stormed home to defeat the Brian Smith-trained Meet George ($21) by one and a quarter lengths.
Jason McLachlan’s former champion juvenile and 2009 Golden Slipper winner Phelan Ready ($9) was a further length away third, while Gerald Ryan’s last-start Ipswich Eye Liner Stakes victor Adnocon ($11) finished off the top four just ahead of beaten favourite Mystical Grey ($4).
“Everything was against him today – the (wet) track, the weight,” Melissa Leitch, a holidaying Heathcote’s stable representative, said on Saturday.
“When he went back to last I thought he had no chance.”
Browne confirmed the “heart-stopping” run, saying he was far from confident in the early stages of success.
“He really struggled for a fair way but like all class horses, he really picked up,” he said.
“Mid-race he was just floundering a bit.
“When he got out at the 300 metres, his turn of foot put paid to them but then he just staggered the last little bit, which he was entitled to do.”
Following Woorim’s Glasshouse win 12 months ago, the galloper enjoyed a short spell before targeting the Victorian Spring Carnival features.
He came close to a maiden elite level win in September, when finishing just a half-length away third to Response in the 2010 Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes, and this will again be the main spring aim for the since-improved galloper.
“We will look at having one run at Doomben and then target the Sir Rupert Clarke, which he went so close in last year,” Leitch confirmed.
The $350,000 Group 1 Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes (1400m) is one of the early major Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival events and is set to run at Caulfield on September 24.
Owner-breeder Ross Cutts from Bribie Island, who races Woorim with wife Judy under the Showtime Breeding syndicate title, expressed his desire to win a thoroughbred major and complete the dream with Woorim.
“He’s a home-bred through and through,” he said.
“I’d love to win a Group One race with him and he’ll get his chance in the spring in Melbourne.
“He’s good enough to do it but he’s one of those horses where everything’s got to go right.”