Trainer Robert Heathcote believes stable war horse Hopfgarten can run a big race in the Listed Weetwood Handicap but he has still lowered his winter carnival plans for the gelding.
Heathcote is in the happy position of having a rising star and an old stager hand at Saturday’s Toowoomba meeting.
Apart from Hopfgarten he has promising three-year-old Zofonic Dancer in the Toowoomba Guineas (1625m).
Heathcote has often said Hopfgarten is the second best son of Mossman he has had in his stable behind multiple Group One winner Buffering.
Hopfgarten has more than earned the title with 12 wins and $825,000 prize money.
The gelding has contested 38 stakes races and won five and been placed eigth times.
In recent years Heathcote has targeted Group One races such as the Stradbroke Handicap, Doomben 10,000 and Doomben Cup with Hopfgarten in the winter.
This time the seven-year-old will be chasing the lesser stakes Group Three and Listed races around 1600m.
Heathcote marvels at how consistent Hopfgarten has been despite getting big weights.
“Like a lot of Queensland’s best horses he pays for consistency. He has been rated over 100 for two years so again in the Weetwood he is giving rising stars five kilos,” Heathcote said.
“While it is hard to do, the old boy usually puts in a good run fresh. Last winter had was second first-up in the Group Two Victory Stakes and he might repeat that.”
Hopfgarten has had two runs at Toowoomba for a fourth in the 2014 Bernborough Stakes and a third in the 2015 Toowoomba Cup.
Like bookmakers who have Zofonic Dancer odds-on, Heathcote expects a big run from the three-year-old.
“It is a tricky track and he is second-up at 1600 metres but I believe he is a Queensland Derby horse,” Heathcote said.
Hopfgarten is an $11 chance in the Weetwood with second emergency, Mr Marbellouz the $2.80 favourite as connections wait anxiously to see if he gets a start.