Ace Brisbane trainer Robert Heathcote said barrier two would be the ideal draw for his consistent stakes performer Hopfgarten in Sydney’s Group 2 $250,000 Villiers Stakes (1600m) this weekend in Sydney.


Hopfgarten needs a favourable inside 2017 Villiers Stakes barrier draw to be competitive in Sydney on Saturday. Photo: Daniel Costello.

Mossman gelding Hopfgarten made a raid on last summer’s Villiers Stakes finishing a luckless fifth behind upset winner Sense Of Occasion when only two lengths beaten.

The Queenslander simply had too much work to do from the horror outside barrier 14 draw and Heathcote is praying for better luck gate-wise in this season’s Villiers Stakes field.

“I really think he should have nearly won last year. He was deep the whole way and actually hit the lead in the straight,” the trainer of Buffering fame told AAP.

Hopfgarten is a rising eight-year-old and Saturday marks his 56th career starts.

His only other Randwick run was in this race 12 months ago and the horse is after just his second win since June of 2011.

At home in Brisbane this campaign Hopfgarten has been racing consistently, the veteran finishing third to Crack Me Up on November 25 in the Listed Recognition Stakes (1350m) and second in last weekend’s Listed Brisbane Handicap (1600m) at Doomben.

After carting 57.5kg in last year’s Villiers Stakes, Hopfgarten has been allocated 57kg this year and comes back two kilograms from what he has carried in Brisbane for his latest two starts.

Heathcote knows the way it works when it comes to honest horses like his being heavily weighted in the handicap races and would be more than happy to exchange kilos for a favourable barrier draw.

“He just continues to pay for his consistency with big weights. He had 59 kilos in the Brisbane Handicap and gave the winner five kilos,” he said.

“It is the old story. Horses race well and get big weights and along comes the younger brigade with light weights. But that is racing and no use complaining.

“But I really think the key to him is a good barrier. I would be glad to trade a 59kg weight for barrier two in the Villiers.

Hopfgarten is a five-time stakes winner and with $792,550 in total career prize money, remains a chance over the coming season to join the millionaires club.

“He is a seasoned traveller, in form and wet or dry doesn’t matter. He has raced well over further but I think 1600 metres is his go,” Heathcote said.

“In a lot of ways he has been overshadowed by my champ Buffering but I would like a stable full of Hopfgartens.”

In the Villiers Stakes Heathcote has engaged the services of Sydney hoop Christian Reith who rides the horse for the first time.

“Chris rode my first ever winner on Kaminka way back in 1997 so we do go back a long way,” Heathcote added.

The all-in Villiers Stakes odds at list Hopfgarten as an $11 chance with the Godolphin-raced November Topaz winner Interlocuter the $3.20 favourite.

The other Queensland visitor in the mix backing-up from a run in last weekend’s Brisbane Handicap meanwhile is the aforementioned Liam Birchely-trained Crack Me Up ($7.50) out to improve on his fourth as the beaten favourite at home.