By Ray Hickson
Trainer Robert Heathcote is confident in-form mare Stella Victoria will measure up to stakes grade later this season so sees no reason why she can’t continue on her winning way at Randwick on Saturday.
The circumstances of Stella Victoria’s return to Sydney – the strike action in Queensland that forced the cancellation of TAB meetings – are unfortunate but may turn out to be a blessing.
On the strength of her three easy wins this time in, Stella Victoria was posted $1.95 favourite for the Schweppes Handicap (1400m).
“I’m buoyed by the confidence of the market, they have her odds-on favourite and they must think she can win,’’ Heathcote said.
“She’ll look as good as anything in the enclosure, she has a lovely healthy coat and dappled up.
“She’s a happy mare and we all know mares when they get in form and are happy and confident they race well.’’
Stella Victoria was trained by David Payne prior to joining Heathcote in April but she didn’t fire in two starts during the early Brisbane winter carnival.
Stella Victoria makes it three on end at Doomben on September 29
“I don’t think any trainer will tell you they are happy to get a horse mid-preparation,’’ he said.
“She came up to us looking to nick a bit of black type through the winter carnival but I’m not so sure she was at the top of her game.
“We gave her a break and she’s come back in sensational form.’’
With six rivals, Heathcote expects jockey Jeff Lloyd won’t be changing too much tactically given her dominance when ridden on the pace in her two Doomben wins last month.
He said the four-year-old is likely to be freshened up after Saturday’s race with a view to targeting stakes races during the summer.
Heathcote warned not to undersell Zofonic Dancer at his Sydney debut in the La Boheme Pinot Noir Rose Handicap (1800m).
A winner of six from 13, the four-year-old is on the fourth line of betting at $7.50 with TAB and has posted back-to-back wins over a mile at the Sunshine Coast and Doomben.
“He is a nice horse, this is his biggest challenge but I like the fact he’s up to 1800m,’’ Heathcote said.
“I was going to run him over 2200m when we were washed out at Doomben so it holds no fears.
“Our horses earn their ratings points racing local horses so now we get a true indication of the form and how it matches up. If he races to his best I’m sure he will be competitive.’’
Heathcote’s third Randwick runner probably falls into the ‘travelling companion’ category but he’s more than happy to let Old Habits have a throw at he stumps in the Robrick Lodge Filante Stakes (1400m).
The seven-year-old won three races last time in but has been unplaced in his three starts since a break.
“The reality is he would need to run a career best to finish in the first four. On ratings he can’t beat those horses but we all know racing is never cut and dried,’’ he said.
“If the horse runs last he gets $3500, you have to run fourth on a Saturday in town to get that in Queensland.’’