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Brisbane horseman Robert Heathcote admitted the horror 2017 Villiers Stakes barrier draw for his honest stakes performer Hopfgarten almost saw him scratch the galloper from the Sydney summer feature on the weekend.
Earlier in the week Heathcote indicated that a favourable inside gate would be key to the chances of his Mossman seven-year-old Hopfgarten being competitive in Royal Randwick’s Group 2 $250,000 Inglis Villiers Stakes (1600m).
In an early blow for last year’s luckless Villiers Stakes fifth placegetter, Hopfgarten drew one of the widest alleys for the handicap clash in gate 14.
He comes into barrier 13 after the early scratching of Someday (10), but it is still far from an ideal starting position for the Queenslander who races twice in as many Saturdays.
Last weekend Hopfgarten finished a neck back second in the Listed Brisbane Handicap (1600m) at Doomben and Heathcote has made the call to run him again in Sydney on Saturday despite the double-digit alley.
The summer bonus incentive of Racing Queensland swayed Heathcote’s decision, with Hopfgarten in line for an extra $100,000 if he wins the Villiers Stakes as well as Doomben’s Listed $300,000 Bernborough Handicap (1600m) back home on December 30.
“I thought about not going after the draw but the incentives are still there so he’ll run,” Heathcote told Racing Queensland.
“There’s a $100,000 bonus if he wins the Villiers and Bernborough Handicap and there’s a $50,000 bonus if he places in the Villiers and wins the Bernborough.
“It’s disappointing and our chances have nosedived after the barrier draw.
“But he drew the same barrier in last year’s Villiers and ran home strongly to run fifth, only two lengths away.”
Post-barriers the price on Hopfgarten in Villiers Stakes betting at Ladbrokes.com.au eased out from $15 to $18, but Heathcote remains hopeful that the track and distance will see his stable stalwart put in a nice effort.
“He’s a good miler and the big Randwick track will suit him,” he said.
“He’s definitely capable of winning the Villiers but he’ll need a lot of luck and a good ride from Christian Reith.”
Also in line for the interstate Villiers Stakes – Bernborough Handicap bonus is fellow Queensland Crack Me Up.
The Liam Birchley-trained four-year-old is another Brisbane Handicap graduate from last Saturday, the gun son of Mossman finishing only a half-length back fourth.
That followed a win in the Listed Recognition Stakes (1350m) on November 25, which Hopfgarten placed third in.
Crack Me Up is one of the single-figure fancies in the Villiers Stakes odds at a firming quote of $7 after coming up trumps with barrier two.
For all the best weekend racing odds and summer betting markets visit Ladbrokes.com.au today.
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