Trainer Rob Heathcote is hopeful of making his mark early in Melbourne this spring with stable stars Buffering and Woorim at Moonee Valley on Saturday.
The pair is Heathcote’s advance team for the spring with his Melbourne contingent expected to more than treble in numbers in coming weeks.
Buffering will make his comeback wearing blinkers for the first time in the Group Three McEwen Stakes (1000m) while Woorim will start in a 1200-metre Open Handicap.
Woorim missed his scheduled comeback when the final two races were abandoned at Doomben 11 days ago and was sent straight to Melbourne for his return.
Buffering, winner of the Group Two Victory Stakes (1200m) at Eagle Farm during the Brisbane winter carnival, hasn’t started since finishing fourth in the Group Three Healy Stakes (1200m) won by Pinwheel at Eagle Farm on June 25.
The son of Mossman was a gallant fourth at his previous start to Sincero in the Group One Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) at Eagle Farm on June 11.
Sincero proved his Stradbroke victory was no fluke with a brilliant comeback victory in the Group Three Tramway Stakes (1400m) at Warwick Farm last Saturday.
Buffering and Woorim arrived safely in Melbourne on Tuesday and will be ridden by Queensland jockey Damian Browne.
Buffering is up against a formidable line-up in the McEwen Stakes but Heathcote expects a strong showing ahead of his main mission in the Group One Manikato Stakes (1200m) at Moonee Valley on September 30.
“The McEwen Stakes is a very strong race but I’m expecting both of my two runners to race very well on Saturday,” Heathcote said.
Heathcote has experimented with blinkers on Buffering in several recent track gallops but is unsure if the head gear will remain on the four-year-old following the McEwen Stakes.
Buffering will get his first look at the tight, turning Moonee Valley track on Wednesday after Heathcote was given permission to work the pair on the course proper.
Woorim has race experience at the Valley after finishing eighth in a similar race there last year.
Woorim hasn’t raced since winning his second successive Listed Glasshouse Handicap (1400m) at Caloundra on July 2.
The son of Show A Heart’s main missions will be the Group One Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield on September 24 and the Group One Emirates Stakes (1600m) at Flemington in November.
Heathcote, who was named last season’s Queensland Trainer of the Year on Saturday, is yet to train a Group One winner but Woorim went close to fulfilling his dream when the six-year-old flashed home for third to Response in last year’s Sir Rupert Clarke.