Following the retirement of stable star Buffering, trainer Robert Heathcote says it’s time for Hopfgarten to step up to the big league.
The six-year-old son of Mossman gets that chance on Saturday in the Group One Cantala Stakes at Flemington.
Hopfgarten is no slouch but has been living the shadow of his more illustrious stablemate who was retired after running in the Manikato Stakes at Moonee Valley last week.
The winner of 11 of his 42 starts, Hopfgarten is yet to run a place in six starts in Melbourne but there has been a myriad of excuses.
“Last spring he had no luck and already this time his two runs have been solid without any luck,” Heathcote said.
“He’s well weighted, he’s got barrier five, which is a luxury for him as he’s never drawn a good barrier the whole time he’s been down here.
“And Craig Williams owes me after his last ride on him.”
At his last start with Williams in the saddle, Hopfgarten finished 11th behind Voodoo Lad in the Moonga Stakes at Caulfield on October 15 after being held up for runs at various stages during the race.
Giving Heathcote heart is that Williams again rides while the market has kept Hopfgarten safe at $15 with The United States the $5.50 favourite in an open race.
“We couldn’t have picked a harder race but I suppose we are racing for a million dollars,” Heathcote said.
“The mere fact Craig was happy to stick with the horse before we knew the barrier draw and weight is comforting and if Victoria’s number one rider wants to ride my horse, who am I to say no.”
Hopfgarten needs a top three finish to again creep up in the ratings for a trip to Perth and a tilt at the Railway Stakes on November 19.
“They fly over on their incentive scheme horses that are rated 105 or better,” Heathcote said.
“His run at Caulfield saw him lose a point to 104 so I need to run in the money to get another point to go over and run in the Railway.
“Otherwise he’ll go back home and get ready for the Queensland summer carnival.”