A strong jump-out by stakes performer Hopfgarten has trainer Robert Heathcote convinced the gelding is on course to chase a lucrative summer bonus.
The winner of 11 races and $722,000, Hopfgarten makes his return to racing after a three-month lay-off in Saturday’s Open Handicap (1200m) at Doomben.
Heathcote already has his eye on on a big prize with Hopfgarten.
Racing Queensland is putting up a $100,000 bonus for any horse that wins the Group Two Villiers Stakes at Randwick on December 16 and the Listed Bernborough Handicap at Doomben on December 30.
There is also a $50,000 bonus for a horse that runs second or third in the Villiers and wins the Bernborough which is now worth $300,000.
Hopfgarten was an unlucky fifth in the Villiers before his third in the Bernborough last year.
“I am keen to give him another go at the Villiers and the Sydney boys owe him a good barrier,” Heathcote said
“He should have nearly won last year and I am going to build him up to the Sydney trip.”
“If a few of the better horses from Sydney come up for the Bernborough it should also push Hopfgarten’s weight down.”
Hopfgarten missed a trial last week because of rain but has had a jump-out to prepare for the Saturday come back.
“I had him in the Lightning in Sydney on Saturday but I think the Doomben race suits better,” Heathcote said.
“The jump-out was good and I have booked Emma Leung to take three kilograms off his back.”
Heathcote often says Hopfgarten is the second-best horse by Mossman he has trained with seven-time Group One winner Buffering the stand-out.
“To compare them is a bit unfair. I know he has never been placed in six Group One races. But his form in Listed, Group Three and even Group Two races is very good,” Heathcote said.
“I think I made a mistake with him in the winter. He ran second first-up in the Group Two Victory Stakes but the track was a bog.”
“No horse that ran in that race trained on for the winter. He was flattened by the run and he struggled in Group One races after that.”