Solzhenitsyn scores Toorak double

| October 13, 2013
The distinctive colours of Solzhenitsyn racing to victory in the G1 Toorak Handicap at Caulfield

The distinctive colours of Solzhenitsyn racing to victory in the G1 Toorak Handicap at Caulfield

Solzhenitsyn overcame the 6kg weight rise to notch back-to-back wins in the Group 1 Toorak Handicap at Caulfield.

It fulfilled a promise Nash Rawiller had given trainer Rob Heathcote after last month’s Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes.

“I was taken a bit by surprise when Nash blamed himself for that defeat, because I thought he rode him perfectly,” Heathcote said.

“But Nash was adamant he should have won that race and immediately told us he would make amends and win the Toorak.

“He didn’t let us down and that’s why he’s in the top few riders in the country.”

Initially handicapped on 55.5kg, Heathcote had concerns when weights were raised 2.5kg because he feels it hurts much more at the top end of the weights than it does at the bottom.

“When the toppy (King Mufhasa) pulled out I really felt he might have had the job ahead of him, but he was just superb today,” Heathcote said.

Solzhenitsyn is the first repeat Toorak winner since Umrum, who carried 55kg in both his 1999 and 2000 wins.

It continued Heathcote’s love affair with Caulfield. Each of his three career Group 1’s have been at the venue.

“Go the Queenslanders,” he trumpeted after the race, before deferring praise to his travelling sidekick Melissa Leitch.

Still shaking in the moments after the win, Leitch had been supremely confident of success all week.

“Everyone knows he used to be a real slug in his work, but that’s all changed this time,” she said. “He just gets right up on the bit and does it easily now.

“There’s no doubt he’s improved four to five lengths compared to last year. He’s mentally switched on now and I just knew how well he had been going.”

Unlike Heathcote, Rawiller wasn’t put out by the rise in weight.

“There was nice speed on which really helped me get into a lovely rhythm,” he said.

“He’s a big, strong horse and he carried it really well and there were no excuses for anything else behind him because they ran along and they had their chance to get over the top of him.”

“He was there to be cut down late but he was just too good.

“Full credit to Rob and Mel because they do an amazing job with all their horses and this bloke holds a pretty soft spot for them.”

Solzhenitsyn will run next in the Crystal Mile, with connections flagging a long term Cox Plate ambition for 2014.

“I know he will be eight, but Fields Of Omagh did it and we will be able to target it properly,” Heathcote said.

Solzhenitsyn, a horse bought for only $10,000, has recorded a rare feat in turf history by winning back-to-back Toorak Handicaps at Caulfield.

Lumping joint topweight of 58 kilograms, the seven-year-old responded under strong riding from Nash Rawiller to score from French galloper Trevieres, while outsider Blackie was third.

Solzhenitsyn, who has now collected more than $1 million for his owners, is only the fifth horse to win consecutive Tooraks, and the first since Umrum in 1999-2000.

Robert Heathcote got Solzhenitsyn to train from owner Paul Willetts in New Zealand after a sale to Hong Kong fell through because of a failed vet test.

“It’s easy this game isn’t it?” Heathcote quipped. “But we all know it’s not … and I have a lot of people to thank including the owners, and Nash Rawiller, what a gem of a ride.

“He had him in the perfect spot and that’s why he’s among the top four or five in the country.”

The Brisbane-based Heathcote has only brought a handful of horses to Melbourne this spring, and won the Blazer Stakes a week ago with Fire Up Fifi.

He also has his old bulldog Buffering still searching for a first Group One in the Manikato Stakes later this month.

“I have to pay a big tribute to Melissa Leech who travels with all my horses and does a terrific job,” Heathcote said.

“Fifi got the job done last week, like Buffering will next week, like Solzi did today.”

Heathcote said he initially wanted to set Solzhenitsyn for the Cox Plate but was talked out of it by Willetts and the other owners.

“We had paid up initially for the Cox Plate, but all the owners are very patient so we just said that we’ll get the job done this year, and next year we’ll set him specifically for a Cox Plate.

“We’ll go onto the Crystal Mile now.”

High and lows for Nash Rawiller

The victory was also sweet for Rawiller, who was dumped from the prized spring carnival ride on Fiorente after last week’s Turnbull Stakes.

“Full credit to Rob and Mel because they do an amazing job with all their horses and this bloke holds a pretty soft spot for them,” Rawiller said.

“There were no excuses for anything else behind him because they ran along and they had their chance to get over the top of him.”

A frantic early pace strung the field out and gave horses settled near the back their chance to run on.

Kerrin McEvoy was impressed with the effort of Trevieres, who made up a lot of ground to only be beaten 1-1/4 lengths.

It was a similar performance by Blackie, while Speediness also ran home soundly to grab fourth.

One of the more fancied runners Mouro disappointed in 11th. It prompted his jockey Glen Boss to express concern with the firmness of the track.

The triple Melbourne Cup winner questioned the merits of running feature events as the last race, particularly if tracks have been drying all day in warm conditions

IT was a triumph for Queensland when the Robert Heathcote-trained Solzhenitysn made it back-to-back Toorak Handicaps with a dominant on-speed victory.

Solzhenitysn was given a superb ride by Nash Rawiller, who positioned him fifth in a race which was run at a hectic tempo.

The win was a fillip for Nash Rawiller after he lost the ride on Fiorente in the Cox Plate and the Melbourne Cup a week ago.

Rawiller delivered a copybook ride which Heathcote said he promised him before the race.

“Nash told me before the race he would get the job done and he was right. What a ride,” Heathcote said.

Rawiller surged Solzhenitsyn to the front early in the straight and from there he didn’t look like losing.

His Brisbane trainer Robert Heathcote described the performance as being “really sensational”.

“He’s done his job and I’m hoping Buffering can join him in the Group One winner’s circle in the Manikato Stakes,” Heathcote said.

“They really ran along and he had to carry his 58 kilos. When the topweight King Mufhasa didn’t declare and the weights had to be raised 2.5kgs I thought we would have a challenge on our hands as he only carried 52 kilos to win last year and went up six kilos,” Heathcote said.

“I knew he was flying but I was worried about the weight. He ticked most of the boxes otherwise.”

Heathcote said he considered running Solzhenitsyn in this year’s Cox Plate but decided to wait a year.

“He’ll be eight but that won’t matter.”

Rawiller agreed and said he would be a top-four Cox Plate chance next year.

This year Heathcote will concentrate on the feature mile races and he will have his next run in the Waterford Crystal Mile at Moonee Valley on October 26 and then he will run in the Emirates Stakes at Flemington on November 9.

Solzhenitsyn was bought as a weanling for $10,000.

He said he was glad he failed a vet test when a substantial offer was made from Hong Kong early in his career.

Rawiller was extremely impressed by the performance saying that with the big weight he thought a lighter weight challenger would emerge over the concluding stages.

“He’a total professional. The way the race panned out it worked out well. I was pretty confident going up the hill that we were in the right spot. I put him to the sword just after straightening and he did the rest,” Rawiller said.

Solzhenitsyn was heavily backed from $7.50 to $6 and defeated the French galloper Trevieres ($12), who ran on strongly from a long way back, by a length-and-a-quarter with Blackie ($21) who raced up to win with 200m to go hanging on to finish third a length away.

Solzhenitsyn was the first horse to make it back-to-back Toorak Handicaps since Umrum in 1999 and 2000.

Kerrin McEvoy was impressed by French galloper’s Trevieres performance saying he would take improvement from the run.


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