Challengers are emerging thick and fast for Buffering’s crown as Australia’s number one sprinter – but he won’t be giving it up without a tremendous fight at The Championships.
Queensland trainer Robert Heathcote believes his six-year-old is better than ever as he heads towards the $2.5million Darley TJ Smith Stakes at Royal Randwick on April 12.
“How juicy a race is the TJ Smith Stakes looking?” Heathcote said. “I think every sprinter in Australia is going for it.”
The son of Mossman served a long Group One apprenticeship, running six seconds, four thirds and four fourths from 17 major attempts. But when he finally broke through in the Manikato Stakes at Moonee Valley in October, he struck a purple patch. The gelding added Group One wins in the VRC Sprint at Flemington and the Winterbottom Stakes in Perth.
“It was a wonderful time and hopefully we can replicate it with Buffering at The Championships,” Heathcote said. “I was always hopeful that Buffering would have his day in the sun when he got to the age of six – when he fully matured and strengthened, and I think he showed that in the spring.”
Buffering is due to resume in the Challenge Stakes over 1000 metres at Royal Randwick on March 15 and then head straight into the Darley TJ Smith Stakes at The Championships.
“You always like to think they’ve come back bigger, better and stronger after a spell, but the reality is I think he has,” Heathcote said. “He’s going to have to in order to ward off the challengers that are now coming at him.”
Buffering is likely to meet at least one aspirant to his throne in the Challenge Stakes in Snitzerland, a brilliant last-start winner of the Black Caviar Lightning Stakes.
“I’m going to bump into Snitzerland in the Challenge,” Heathcote said. “I think that’s where Gerald Ryan is going. I think she’s at her best over 1000-metres and Buffering’s at his best over 1200m so he’s probably going to be vulnerable in that. Then it’s four weeks to the TJ Smith Stakes and obviously that’s my fellow’s goal.”
In the Darley TJ Smith Stakes, Buffering will come up against the likes of Snitzerland, dual Group One winner Gordon Lord Byron from Ireland, Oakleigh Plate winner Lankan Rupee, star mare Samaready, boom colt Zoustar, rising star Not Listenin’tome, Rebel Dane, Shamexpress and fellow Queensland sprinter Spirit of Boom, among others.
But the depth of talent does not surprise Heathcote, who said the lure of the event was enormous: “In the words of Kevin Costner ‘you build it and they will come’.”
“If Buffering was to put the TJ Smith in the bank, to go with his three in the spring and hopefully another one up here in Brisbane, possibly the Doomben 10,000 – where I think he’s been a bit stiff the last two years – then I think it would put to bed the doubt that he may well be the country’s best sprinter.”