Robert Heathcote is reluctant to compare Hopfgarten to dual Toorak Handicap winner Solzhenitsyn but the Brisbane trainer won’t be surprised to see him run a big race.
Hopfgarten goes into Saturday’s Group One race at Caulfield off an unlucky 12th behind Stratum Star in the Rupert Clarke Stakes on September 26 when he finished three lengths from the winner without being fully tested.
“It’s fair to say it was the best 12th I’ve had in my career,” Heathcote said.
Heathcote, who prepared Solzhenitsyn to win back-to-back Tooraks in 2012 and 2013, has already struck a Group One blow in Melbourne this spring with veteran sprinter Buffering winning last Friday’s Moir Stakes.
He said Hopfgarten worked well at Flemington on Tuesday and the report from his stable representative in Melbourne was that the five-year-old was spot-on.
“There’s no doubting that second-up over a mile is a challenge but he’s got a good second-up record and you can’t but like his first-up run at Caulfield even though he was unlucky,” Heathcote said.
“You never know with a horse like Hopfgarten whether or not he is a Group One horse but I’ve always had a nice opinion of him and he’s still a progressive horse.
“And that run in the Rupert Clarke did show me that he’s more than capable of being competitive.
“I think to say he’s as good as Solzhenitsyn at this stage is a bit of a big ask, but who knows. He’s still a progressive horse and drawing a good barrier will be essential.”
The Toorak Handicap, which has attracted 20 nominations, has a field limit of 18.
Lucky Hussler and Stratum Star, who have 58kg and 57kg respectively, are entered for trainer Darren Weir who won the race in 2014 with Trust In A Gust.
Hopfgarten, to be ridden by Glen Colless, has 54kg with the final field to be declared on Wednesday.
He is at $16 in an early market and Heathcote believes that’s a fair assessment.
“If he can draw a good barrier and have a little bit more luck than what he had in the Rupert Clarke, knowing his competitiveness over the mile I think he’ll certainly be a genuine each-way chance,” he said.