While the majority of the country’s top sprinters are well into their preparations for the autumn, seven-year-old gelding Buffering has only just returned to work. That’s because trainer Robert Heathcote has opted to bypass Sydney and Melbourne in the autumn to focus on the Brisbane Winter Carnival with the gelding.
Buffering has thrice been named Queensland Horse of the Year and is a four-time Group One winner, however elite victory in his home town has so far eluded him. The seven-year-old has contested ten Group One races in Brisbane in the past three years but has yet to win any, which is a stark contrast to his success in down south.
However Heathcote is on a quest to change this statistic this winter.
“He has been back for a couple of weeks and I like the way he has been going,” Heathcote told Sky Racing.
“It was tempting to head to Sydney in the autumn but I think for the good of the horse we will stay in Brisbane.”
“As for retirement you never say never but while he is rising eight he doesn’t know it. I have been spacing his races and provided he stays sound he will race on for a while yet.
“Look at Takeover Target and Temple of Boom they are just a couple of old timers who raced very well in their later years.”
Buffering is a four-time Group One winner, three of which were won within the span of one month in 2013. After winning the Group 1 Manikato Stakes (1200m) by a short half-head on October 25, Buffering netted the Group 1 VRC Sprint Classic (1200m) 15 days later. The gelding then travelled west to Perth to win the Group 1 Winterbottom Stakes (1200m) two weeks after that.
The gelding may be approaching eight but Heathcote has no plans to slow down. He is set to resume in the Group 2 Victory Stakes (1200m) at the Gold Coast on April 25, a race he won in both 2011 and 2013. After that he will contest the Group One treble of the BTC Cup (1200m) on May 9, Doomben 10,000 (1350m) two weeks later, and Stradbroke Handicap (1350m) on June 6 – all races he’s run at least twice since 2011.
Heathcote is confident Buffering can finally break his Group One drought in Brisbane thanks to the $2 million Stradbroke Handicap and Doomben 10,000 being run 50 metres shorter at Doomben this year, since Eagle Farm is out of action. The gelding has yet to win beyond 1200m but this is the perfect opportunity. However with the news the world’s highest-rated sprinter Lankan Rupee could contest the same races, victory may elude Buffering once more.
Buffering won the Group 1 Moir Stakes (1200m) first-up in the spring at Moonee Valley before finishing outside the placings in both the Group 1 Manikato Stakes (1200m) and Group 1 Darley Classic (1200m). He then travelled to Hong Kong in December but once again ran midfield in the Group 1 Hong Kong Sprint (1200m).
Heathcote for one is not reading much into his gelding’s last three defeats, believing the catalyst was getting badly knocked in the Manikato Stakes.
“He got knocked rotten in the Manikato and only got beaten three-quarters of a length. He could barely walk after that run,” Heathcote said.
“I have no doubt it put us behind with him and that interference cost us wins in all three Group One races.”
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