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By Robert Heathcote | Thursday, September 8, 2011

Robert Heathcote is the leading racehorse trainer in Brisbane. 'Rob's Shout' - the personal blog of the multi-premiership winning trainer will appear every Thursday on HRO.

Three metro trebles and a couple of doubles this past month or so has certainly seen the stable kick off the new season well in defense of the Training Premiership title.

I have received quite a few comments and questions on the reasons for our recent successes, which on a personal note was capped off with winning the recent Jim Atkins, Queensland Trainer Of The Year award at the annual awards night. I am certainly very humbled and immensely proud!

A common thread of comment to me of late is that things must get easier in terms of attracting new owners and new horses with the more success that comes along!

That may well be true, however I tend to look at it in a little less simplistic terms.

The success of any horse is not just about getting the horse fit and healthy to win a race, but it is more about an ongoing program over a long period of time … and that I believe has been a big part of our stable success this past three or four years.

Careful nurturing of the young horses … knowing when to push forward and when to back off goes a long way towards ensuring the longevity of a horse’s racing career.

It's also fair to say that with the stable successes comes an added pressure regarding performance expectations.

A perfect example of this has been seen recently down in Melbourne with the Peter Moody stable.

There has been plenty of comment down south about the fact that plenty of Peter’s horses have been going around under their odds due to the strength of the public support for the stable and the following he has achieved because of his extraordinary success.

I am certainly not comparing myself with Moods. If there was ever one guy in this land who would not be fazed with public expectations and pressures, it would be Peter, but the fact is that the added expectation is there.

Pete actually said to me not long ago that he felt it was easier being the 'hunter' than the 'hunted', but I know he, as well as Chris Waller in Sydney, realise that there can be no resting on ones laurels after a good year in this training caper.

Does any fear of going backwards actually drive you forward, I wonder?

Maybe … yes, to a degree, with me personally, because we all know nothing is guaranteed in the racing business.

Any stable success comes from a period of hard work with a lot of hard yards and constant attention to detail. For all that though, there are more ‘ordinary’ days in the office at the races than the highs that winning brings … just like we had an ordinary race-day yesterday, but sometimes you just have to take it on the chin and move on. Carefully evaluate what went wrong, work out why it went wrong and, if it is within your power to do so, try and sort out the issues.

I know it's an old cliche often used in racing, but it can indeed be a numbers game to maintain a high level of stable success.

You have to have the numbers both in terms of available horses and also, of course, the depth of quality. That’s a worthy point to make … underline it … the importance of depth of quality within the stable.

In the last eight Saturday Metropolitan meetings I have sent out fourteen winners, including three trebles and a further two doubles.

Add in a midweek Metropolitan double and three close runner up finishes last Wednesday at the Farm during this time and it is clear that the flow of outstanding stable form has merged seamlessly from last season into the new racing season … but the big point is that no less than eleven horses have been involved in the sixteen wins during this period. That, I think, aptly illustrates the depth of quality I am talking about.

It is very comforting to know that there are so many capable of achieving city success aside from the established stable stars. It can go a long way to helping us defend our premiership and sure makes getting out of bed at 3am each day a little more enticing.

Very careful individual horse management is also vital.

Just yesterday I had a case where I had three runners in the same race. That’s never ideal and something I try to avoid, but there are occasions where the race programming just makes it unavoidable and each horse has to be treated on its own merits.

That’s Karma just got rolled and interference took care of the other two!

Just last Saturday we ran the quinella in a race (with Trump and Bevico Girl). One was favourite and one was a roughy! I am just happy to see both run up to their potential and to my expectations as their trainer.

I do know that both lots of connections were delighted even if I did ‘beat myself’!

Even on Sunday I had the first and second favourites in a race at Caloundra. I won the race with the second favourite, Gotcha, who was specked in the betting and yes, I did cop a bit of 'ribbing' from a few as I thought Teepoh would win?

The well beaten favourite has subsequently returned a blood profile which showed an elevated white cell count so fair to assume he has had a recent health challenge which may/would explain his performance.

Expectations of a how a horse runs is often cause for plenty of debate both before the race and more often afterwards. Especially if they are or were a short priced favourite in the betting.

Again this was the case last week where we saw Peter Moody’s Lights Of Heaven who, I felt, was way under the odds in what was a very strong field in a big race in Melbourne. A good example maybe of a horse being undervalued due to the stable success! She only went ordinary, but I am sure Peter will work out what her issues are!

At times I feel horses of mine are under the odds due to unrealistic expectations and at times vice versa! It's fair to say there are even occasions that the more a horse wins, sometimes the better the price becomes? What … each time a horse wins it’s just closer to getting beaten!

Things do get tougher as a horse rises in class. For a trainer it is always a challenge trying to stay in front of the handicapper and to keep any horse competitive which is what the correct placement of horses in the right races is all about.

As the individual horse’s class and weights rise it brings into play a number of other critical factors in determining a horse’s race programming and their opportunities of winning.

You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to figure out that it is much harder to win races in Stakes grade company and those who bag horses for not regularly winning in group company are quite simply fools!

You ask any owner if they would be happy to win a Group 1 race. They would be … but after they do, it’s always going to be much tougher to win as the horse becomes harder to place and it invariably races against the best opposition.

A good example of this placement and decision making at the right time was the win of Racing Heart at Eagle Farm last Saturday.

Last preparation this fella was flying, but we elected to spell him whilst he still had some 'petrol' left in the tank. More importantly he was a Class 6 horse so going for a spell allowed him to return and be eligible for Class 6 Plate races which opened up his race options.

He ran a nice race first-up in a Class 6 race with a big weight and we then elected to run him in an Open Class event where he got in better at the weights. He ran an excellent race to win well.

Admittedly the strong race tempo helped him and the tempo made the favourite (Elusive Port) carry his big weight, but the step into open company saw him drop in weight and this was a critical factor in him winning.

The fact that he won did surprise me a touch, and it was a pleasant surprise at that. Not that I ever doubted his ability to win! I thought he might just need the run, but he showed a ton of courage!

Trumps win (also on Saturday) was very satisfying as well as I have earmarked him as a nice horse from the first day he walked into my stable.

He has been a real work in progress and it was a delight to see Larry at his very patient best on the horse. He got shuffled right back coming to the home turn, but he didn’t panic as he weaved his way through the field for a very good win.

I love seeing most of my horses ridden that way … nice and relaxed and powering to the line! It will now get tougher as his rating rises and he consequently goes up in weight!

Bevico Girl went around at 'lottery' odds but we also thought she had a good level of ability. Jimmy had to go well back on her from the wide gate and he
held her up until well inside the 300 and she also made a strong charge to the line. She can be winning again and soon!

Sam’s Town (which was the first leg of the Sam’s Town, Racing Heart, Trump treble last Saturday) was a delightful ride from Jim Byrne.

The horse has a trick or two and he has to also be held up a bit and brought into the clear. I loved how Jimmy 'pocketed' the favourite until exactly the right time and then he made his charge to the line for a well-deserved win.

The horse has been leading up to this city win for some time now and it was particularly pleasing as John Thompson is one of my biggest supporters.

Johns other runner on the day, Redessi also raced well at his Aussie debut so his hoof is on the till with a last stride defeat … but it was a super first up effort! He is a very welcome addition to my stable and he certainly adds to the overall quality of my stable.

While things are flying at home, we are also taking our challenge interstate and will be kicking off our schedule down south at Moonee Valley on Saturday.

Stable stars, Buffering and Woorim gave me a sleepless night on Monday evening.

We took them out to the airport for their 11pm flight to Melbourne on the cargo plane and … yes, you guessed it … the flight got delayed in Sydney, so it was back to the stables for another ninety minutes in their boxes before the return for the flight at 1am.

It sure did make for a very, very long day, but I am pleased to say that by 3.45am they were tucking into their feed in their new Flemington base!

Flying them down is not cheap, but it sure is so much quicker and the rewards can more than make up for the cost if things work out.

Managing an existing, established stable routine while pushing on to new challenges, ie interstate raids, means I am now, in essence, fighting on two fronts and having to attend to all of the logistics involved in such an operation.

I can say that it is a huge challenge, but it is one which I relish. I have some great staff to support me with Melissa down in Melbourne and Robert and Mikey ably supporting me back here in Brisbane.

Both Woorim and Buffering will line up at the Valley this Saturday and both are super-hot races.

The McEwan is a super field and it will be a very tough race to win at WFA. That’s to be expected though as the Spring Carnival heats up.

I was not concerned with Woorim missing his run before he left due to the washout at Doomben … in fact I was pleased after so much rain came.

I have him fit enough for the second- up tilt at the Rupert Clarke at Caulfield on the 24th. Unfinished business in that race.

His biggest challenge may well be the weather and track conditions? He was devastating second-up when he won the Darley Sprint during the carnival here so we are hoping the plan can work again.

Anyway, it looks like being a busy couple of months ahead. It’s a tough cauldron to do battle in, but it’s an exciting time of year in racing.

Regards to all for now.


More articles

Robert Heathcote
Robert Heathcote
Another stable treble last Saturday

Sam's Town was a delightful ride
by Jim Byrne.
Another stable treble last Saturday

Sam's Town was a delightful ride
by Jim Byrne.
Racing Heart was a good example of placing a horse in the right race

Jim Byrne was in the saddle again.
Racing Heart was a good example of placing a horse in the right race

Jim Byrne was in the saddle again.
Trump has been a real work in progress and it was a delight to see Larry at his very patient best on the horse
Trump has been a real work in progress and it was a delight to see Larry at his very patient best on the horse
Stables stars Buffering ...
Stables stars Buffering ...
... and Woorim gave me a sleepless night on Monday evening
... and Woorim gave me a sleepless night on Monday evening
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