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Improving three-year-old Hopfgarten could be a surprise entry for the Group One Stradbroke Handicap if he races up to expectations at Eagle Farm.

Hopfgarten has been the star of the recent Brisbane midweek meetings winning his past three starts in impressive style.

He takes on far stronger class in Saturday’s Group Three Gunsynd Plate (1600m), a race many of Queensland’s better three-year-olds are using as a stepping stone to the big winter races.

Hopfgarten carried 59kg when he strolled home to beat Tracey’s Angel in a Class 3 at Eagle Farm at his last start.

Tracey’s Angel franked the form when she ran third in the Listed Members Cup (1600m) at Eagle Farm last Saturday.

Trainer Robert Heathcote has a big opinion of Hopfgarten who like his champion Buffering is by Mossman.

“I know it is a big step up on Saturday. But the way he won under 59kgs last start really confirmed my big opinion of him,” Heathcote said.

“At this stage we think he is a Queensland Guineas horse but the winner of the Guineas is exempt from the ballot for the Stradbroke.

“Saturday will tell me which way to go with him but if he races well he could be a Straddie entry.”

Heathcote also has Olympic Anthem in the Gunsynd and he is also on a Guineas-Stradbroke path.

“Saturday’s race will show which way to go but if they race like I think they will both could head the same way,” he said.

Heathcote has had the chiropractor working on his other smart three-year-old Sea Red who will press on to the Gold Coast Bracelet on Saturday week and Queensland Oaks on May 31.

Meanwhile, Heathcote’s dual Group One winner Solzhenitzen will make his return from a throat operation in the Group Two Victory Stakes (1200m).

“He sounds like an old Victa mower but he has won a jump-out and a trial so he is ready to race,” Heathcote said.

Solzhenitzen will be ridden by Glen Colless while Damien Browne will stick with smart mare Fire Up Fifi in the same race.

Heathcote said all going well, both would head to the BTC Cup, Doomben 10,000 and the Stradbroke, the same path as stable star Buffering.

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