Adelaide horseman Phillip Stokes is hoping his promising three-year-old Hucklebuck can make claims for a 2014 Stradbroke Handicap bid this Brisbane Winter Racing Carnival when they race in the $125,000 Group 3 Fred Best Classic (1350m) at Doomben on the weekend.
One of 23 nominees for the Fred Best Classic this year, Elvstroem gelding Hucklebuck will use the race as a lead-up to a shot at the big time in the $1.36 million Group 1 AAMI Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) at Eagle Farm on June 7.
A winner of five of their eight starts to date giving them an impressive 63% win rate, Hucklebuck has been in exciting form this time in.
They won first-up at home at Morphettville over 1200m before taking that to Flemington to score again, this time defeating Prince Harada in the Group 3 CS Hayes Stakes (1400m).
Stokes stepped them up to Group 1 company for the first time last start then on March 1 in the Group 1 Australian Guineas (1600m).
It was a disappointing result however as they could only manage to finish eighth behind Cox Plate hero Shamus Award.
Still they were beaten only two and a half lengths in an effort explained by the fact they were suffering from respiratory issues, mucus found in their throat post-race.
Not having raced again since, Hucklebuck then makes their return in the Fred Best on Saturday in their Brisbane debut.
“He arrived there [in Brisbane] last Friday,” Stokes told The Advertiser on Monday.
“It was a long trip, we treated the travel a bit like a run, but he’s bounced back well the past few days.”
They come into the race off a promising trial at Gawler over 1000m that they won by three lengths, Stokes confident of a big run despite their vulnerability over the Fred Best distance.
“He trialled well, but first-up at 1350m he’s going to be a bit vulnerable,” he said.
“He’s got improvement in him that’s for sure.”
Already they are featuring high up the futures Stradbroke Handicap odds at Ladbrokes.com.au too.
Markets are led by Gary Portelli’s Sydney raider Rebel Dane ($6) who runs in Queensland for the first time Saturday week in the $650,000 Group 1 Doomben 10,000 (1350m).
Hucklebuck meanwhile is well inside the first half of betting at a current quote of $10, equal with Chris Waller’s reigning Tattersall’s Tiara winner Red Tracer.
It’s a price that’s sure to firm should they win this weekend and defeat a quality field that could include the likes of Gerald Ryan’s Gold Coast Guineas winner Dothraki and the Rob Heathcote-trained local Hopfgarten who took out the Gunsynd Classic over the Eagle Farm mile last start.
There’s a chance too however that Stokes will skip the Straddie with the young gun and keep them against their own age for the $250,000 Group 2 Queensland Guineas (1600m) the week before.
“We’ll just see what happens,” Stokes said.
“We might just go to the Guineas, we’ll just have to see how he progresses.”
Stay tuned to Races.com.au to view the official Fred Best Classic 2014 field set for release on Wednesday.
For now though savvy punters are heading to Ladbrokes.com.au to place their early Stradbroke Handicap futures bets at the top prices before the odds shorten following the Doomben Cup Day results this weekend!