Trainer's valuable Ipswich Cup Day insights
KNOWING what it is like to win a major race on Ipswich Cup Day, trainer Robert Heathcote has high hopes for Saturday.
Apart from five-year-old gelding Privlaka in the $176,500 City of the Ipswich Eye Liner Stakes (1350m), he's overseeing the aptly named Don't Leave Me Out (TL Cooney Handicap) and Manias in the Class 6 Plate.
With Mark Du Plessis and Jim Orman riding those horses, Heathcote rated them strong contenders on Saturday's nine-race program.
Not having a runner in this year's $180,000 Channel 7 Ipswich Cup, Heathcote was more conservative in his quest to win the wide open Eye Liner Stakes. He has the promising Privlaka, being ridden by Ipswich-bred hoop Jake Bayliss.
"Privlaka is probably up against it,'' Heathcote said of the five-year-old gelding.
"It's a tough race. The tight circuit around Ipswich probably doesn't suit him.
"Barrier one, normally one would take that all day long but here he could get cluttered up in on the fence. He's a horse that needs plenty of galloping room.''
However, the experienced trainer said he would be more confident if Privlaka could reproduce his good run in the Group 3 BRC Sprint at Doomben on May 19, where his horse was an unlucky second.
"The jockey dropped the whip at the 150 and he was only narrowly beaten against a highly in-form horse like I'm A Rippa,'' Heathcote said.
The shorter-priced I'm A Rippa, being ridden by Jim Byrne and trained by Tony Golan, is also in Saturday's Eye Liner field, setting up a thrilling Ipswich rematch between the sprinters.
"He's some chance . . . 14-1 probably reflects his chances in that race,'' Heathcote said of Privlaka.
"Clearly my other two - Don't Leave Me Out and Manias - are probably my best chances.''
Heathcote has been a long-time supporter of Ipswich, enjoying back-to-back success with Our Lukas in the 2009 and 2010 Cups.
"I wish I still had him,'' said Heathcote, who has been training for 20 years.
"Ipswich Cup, it's one of our local races.
"I've always liked Ipswich.
"The track needed some work after the floods but it's always been a wonderful track and the (Ipswich Turf Club) committee do a great job.
"It's your showpiece day.''
Heathcote joins the chorus of support from jockeys and trainers eagerly awaiting the $13 million Ipswich Turf Club redevelopment following Saturday's meeting.
"It's overdue,'' he said.
"It's been a bit of a stop-start affair the last decade. It's badly needed. Not just the amenities for the public and the racegoers but the track needs some work as well.''
However, he has regularly fielded runners on Ipswich Cup Day, including Kildare Kid which came second in the Eye Liner Stakes.
"It's a track that you always need an element of luck on,'' he said.
Heathcote has been a fantastic story in Queensland racing. Since moving up from Tasmania, he has overseen hundreds of winners.
He's well known for training seven-time Group One winner Buffering, who has now retired to a property at Burbank, about 20km from Brisbane.
Of Heathcote's runners today, Du Plessis is jumping aboard Don't Leave Me Out after a comfortable trial on him.
"I've got no problems on him in a race,'' Heathcote said.
Manias' rider Orman is a regular at Ipswich meetings.
"He not only knows his way around Ipswich, he knows the horse quite well also,'' Heathcote.
"He's had a bit of lengthy break this horse. He suffered an injury, a muscle problem, and we brought him back and he tweaked it again so I had to give him a little bit more time off.
"He's come back now and he trialled really well recently also and we think he's good to go.''
Ipswich Turf Club general manager Brett Kitching expected ideal conditions on Saturday with a forecast of 23 degrees after a chilly morning.
He said the track was a soft 5 today and "would probably end up somewhere between a soft 5 and good 4, which is perfect''.
Saturday's nine-event program starts 11.40am.
The $180,000 Channel 7 Ipswich Cup (2150m) is at 3.17pm, before the City of Ipswich Eye Liner Stakes at 3.57pm.
Top Australian trainers like Chris Waller and Darren Weir have runners in the big races, with international jockey Corey Brown back for a number of rides after his success last year.