It’s shaping up as a nice Brisbane Winter Racing Carnival for Sydney’s sons-and-father training team Michael, Wayne & John Hawkes starting with the 2014 Doomben Cup this weekend where they’ll saddle-up likely favourite Leebaz.
The progressive Zabeel four-year-old is one of 13 hopefuls still in the mix for the $500,000 Group 1 Doomben Cup (2000m) on Saturday and is leading the pre-field markets for the staying showdown at bookies around the country.
Trainers admit that the Doomben Cup wasn’t really on the radar for the ultra-consistent youngster until Leebaz took their record to six wins from nine starts on May 3.
That day they scored their maiden Black Type victory at Hawkesbury with expat Kiwi hoop James McDonald guiding them to a three quarter length victory over Wistful in the Group 3 Hawkesbury Gold Cup (1600m), a performance co-trainer Michael Hawkes described as outstanding.
“Not so much in the horses he beat, but the way he did it,” he told The Daily Telegraph.
“He had to do it tough the whole way and he still beat them convincingly.”
It was their first run in 28 days following a credible second behind subsequent Doncaster Mile third placegetter Weary in the Group 3 Doncaster Prelude (1500m) run on a Heavy (8) Rosehill track on April 5.
Following their impressive efforts at Hawkesbury Leebaz entered Doomben Cup calculations, the bookies rating them as the one to beat despite their inexperience with this to be their first attempt at elite level.
But Hall of Famer John Hawkes still needed convincing, and the Doomben Cup bid wasn’t confirmed until Leebaz impressed with a nice piece of trackwork last Friday morning.
“He pulled up so well out of that Hawkesbury race and his work on Friday showed to us he’s worth taking because he was bouncing out of his skin,” Michael Hawkes said.
“The Doomben Cup has always been in the back of our minds, but like all our horses, it’s a race-by-race thing.
“He’s a horse that’s still on the rise and a bit immature mentally.
“We always felt he was a potential Group 1 horse, but we haven’t wanted to rush him.
“I think the Doomben 2000m is the right sort of race to try him in.
“Leebaz is one of those Zabeels that has a lovely turn of foot and is a bit sharper than those more dour 2400m types.
“He’s got a lot of class about him.”
It’s shaping up as a crack edition of the race too with Leebaz’s main dangers being the Guy Walter-trained Streama and Darren Weir’s evergreen veteran Akzar who was one of three late entries last week after trainers missed the scheduled first acceptances.
Stratum mare Streama came via a Group 1 Queen Of The Turf Stakes (1600m) fourth at Randwick and enjoyed a step up to 1800m at the Gold Coast on May 3 to win the Group 2 A.D. Hollindale Stakes in the wet.
Seven-year-old Akzar also won their last start, the son of Selkirk improving on a Group 3 Easter Cup (2000m) second to win the Listed Warnambool Cup (2350m), run on a Heavy (10), on May 1.
Also in the mix are the likes of the Chris Waller-trained Junoob looking to improve on their luckless Hollindale Stakes fourth and Ciaron Maher’s Group 1 performer Mr O’Ceirin who ran second in that same Doomben Cup lead-up.
The official 2014 Doomben Cup final field is set for release on Wednesday and will be published right here at Races.com.au.
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