Given one wish, leading trainer Rob Heathcote would hope for a dry winter carnival.
Heathcote, last year’s premier trainer in Brisbane, will begin his winter carnival assault with stablemates Buffering and Woorim in the Group Two Victory Stakes at Eagle Farm on Saturday.
Heathcote is confident Buffering has fully recovered from a recent setback to stake his winter claims in the 1200-metre feature despite not having started for six months.
The three-year-old, who won the Group Two Roman Consul Stakes at Randwick in October, was spelled following his last-start fourth to Star Witness down the Flemington straight in the Group One Coolmore Stud Stakes (1200m) in October.
Buffering’s winter preparation was derailed momentarily when he suffered a stone bruise earlier this month.
Heathcote expects a strong showing from Buffering on a track rated a heavy (8) but is less optimistic about Woorim’s chances in the wet.
“I just want the rain we’ve been having to stop,” Heathcote said.
“The rain pretty much rules out Woorim’s chances but Buffering can handle it.
“But so too can Zero Rock and Atomic Force who has a massive advantage on a heavy track the way he won the Galaxy on a heavy track last time.”
Heathcote has a strong winter carnival team this year but Buffering is easily the stable flag-bearer.
“I reckon he’s over the recent setback but it’s never ideal running them first-up in this sort of going,” he said.
“His work on Saturday morning was first class and I was delighted with his work this morning.
“I expect him to be competitive but he’ll improve a lot after this run.”
Heathcote hasn’t ruled out a clash with champion Black Caviar in next month’s Group One BTC Cup (1200m) at Doomben if Buffering performs well.
“If he runs a blinder I’ll consider lining up against Black Caviar next time,” he said.
“But I do mean just lining up against her. I don’t expect him to beat her.
“Saturday’s race is a ballot-free race into the Stradbroke Handicap so if he happened to win then the Stradbroke would be his primary goal.”
Heathcote believes Woorim will need a substantial track upgrade to perform to his best.
Woorim almost gave Heathcote his first Group One winner when the five-year-old finished third in the Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes at Caulfield last September.
The son of Show A Heart, who has failed at his only two heavy-track starts, resumed with an eye-catching fourth to Toowoomba flyer Azzaland in the Listed Bribie Handicap (1200m) at Doomben earlier this month.
“His first-up run was sensational when he came from back in the field,” Heathcote said.
“He made up a stack of ground in a race not run to suit him.
“If he comes good he’s a genuine Stradbroke chance later on.”
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