Heathcote Has High-Speed Buffering

Melanie Sharpe puts Al Quoz Sprint contender Buffering through his paces

Credit: Dubai Racing Club // Mathea Kelley

Heathcote Has High-Speed Buffering

By Howard Wright

A last link with the great Black Caviar is how Australian trainer Robert Heathcote describes his stable star Buffering (AUS), who has already written his own rags-to-riches story and bids to add another significant chapter in the Al Quoz Sprint sponsored by Meydan Hotels and Hospitality.

The Queensland-based gelding cost A$22,000 as a yearling in 2009 and has turned the investment into a dividend of A$6.4 million, with the latest return coming in the Magic Millions Open Plate at the Gold Coast in January, his 19th win in 51 starts. But the picture was not always so rosy.

“What endears him to the Australian public so much was that it took him 18 goes to win a Group 1, and then he’s won six of his last 12,” Heathcote said. “During those first 18 attempts, the quality of horses he raced against was so strong.

“He ran against Black Caviar; when she left the scene we had another top-notcher in Hay List, and they were clearly the best sprinters in the world. Then along came Sepoy, and right through to today, with the likes of Lankan Rupee and Chautauqua around, Buffering has still been there.

“It’s an extraordinary story that he’s done all this at the latter stages of his career. If I knew what the secret was, I’d do it to a few other horses.”

For the moment the secret belongs to Buffering, who will be Australia’s sole representative on the night and the first for the country since Ortensia won the Al Quoz Sprint four years ago.

“We now have the championships at Randwick, with phenomenal prize-money,” Heathcote said, explaining the absence of other flag-bearers.

“Buffering could have gone for the TJ Smith Stakes, worth two and a half million Aussie dollars. More prize-money and less hassle than coming to Dubai, but for us this whole journey is not so much about the prize-money – he’s won nearly six and a half million, after all – because we’re enjoying the fact we can be here. The Dubai Racing Club has been brilliant to offer the invitation and we gladly accepted.”

Buffering too seems to have delighted in the experience. “He’s thrived in Dubai,” Heathcote said. “The secret to our success is how well he’s recovered from the travel. Melanie Sharpe, his trackwork rider and my assistant foreman, knows him better than anybody and she says he’s 100 per cent. I love how his ears are pricked through his work; it shows he’s a happy boy.”

Buffering worked over the big-race course and distance for the second time in three days very early on Tuesday morning, and Heathcote expressed himself more than satisfied. “Clinically he’s 100 per cent; now he’s the same in his attitude,” he said. “He’s exactly where we want him to be, and I’m sure he’s good enough if he fronts up with his A-game.”

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