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Hopfgarten’s Austrian Villiers connection

In a small ski town in Austria, Hopfgarten’s fan club will be hoping the horse who shares his name with their home can do them proud in the Villiers Stakes.

Rob Heathcote named the gelding after the town where he ran a resort while working for Contiki Tours, his job before becoming one of Brisbane’s most successful trainers.

“He’s a legend in the little Austrian ski town, they love him,” Heathcote said.

“I still know a few people who live there so they follow him.”

There could hardly be a more different setting from Hopfgarten in Tirol, one of Austria’s most prominent ski regions, to Randwick where the temperature is expected to push into the low 30s for Saturday’s Group Two race over 1600m.

Hopfgarten ran second to the Desleigh Forster-trained Cylinder Beach in the Listed Recognition Stakes (1400m) at Eagle Farm on November 26, giving up 6 kilograms.

“I don’t care how good they are, weight stops them,” Heathcote said.

“His last run was a cracker.”

Cylinder Beach is likely to stay in Brisbane for a Listed 1600m race and Hopfgarten drops from 60kg to 57.5kg in the Villiers.

Hopfgarten, a multiple stakes winner, went back to Group One company at Flemington on October 31, running sixth in the Cantala Stakes.

“He beat four or five really good Group One horses that day,” Heathcote said.

“He was 2-1/2 lengths behind some of the best milers in the spring carnival.

“I was proud of his run.”

While he emerged winless from the Melbourne spring carnival, Heathcote said a combination of bad luck and Hopfgarten’s preference for clockwise racing hindered the horse.

Early favourite Fabrizio has been supported from $4.60 to $3.20 with Hopfgarten at $15.

Other moves in the TAB’s all-in market include the Peter and Paul Snowden-trained Pajaro who has come in from $26 to $15 and the Mike Moroney-trainer Loyalty Man who has shortened from $51 to $26 after being assured of a start.

“I’m under no illusions about how hard it is,” Heathcote said.

Tye Angland gets the ride on Hopfgarten while Melbourne Cup-winning jockey Kerrin McEvoy has been booked for the Lee and Anthony-trained Sarrasin, a stakes winner in France set to make his Australian debut on Saturday.

If Hopfgarten can win the Villiers, a $100,000 bonus will be up for grabs in the Bernborough Handicap in Brisbane on New Year’s Eve.

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