German import Schabau completed the perfect opening racing campaign in Australia at Flemington on Saturday when he stretched his winning sequence to five while taking that first official step towards earning a run in this year’s Melbourne Cup.
Schabau was just a 70-rater when he debuted in Australia on January 1 but now goes for an autumn spell with three decisive Flemington wins under his belt as well as a much-improved rating and with the first ballot clause for the Melbourne Cup behind him after his emphatic listed Roy Higgins Quality win over 2600 metres.
Starting the shortest-priced favourite of the day, Schabau ($1.50) held a margin of three-and-three-quarter lengths over the honest Naval Warfare ($4.80), with a further three-quarters of a length to Top Of The Range ($7) in third place.
Although it was a staying race of suspect depth in March, few would doubt Schabau has what it takes to contest a Melbourne Cup after his seemingly effortless romp and that is the path set by his two-time Melbourne Cup-winning trainer Rob Hickmott.
“That’s what we bought him for,” Hickmott said.
“He’s a very sharp horse with a huge aerobic capacity. Over two miles (3200m) he would be one of those horses that can still skip home in sub-34 (seconds) and if he can do that he’s right in the mix.”
One TAB punter placed $6000 on Schabau at $51 to win the Melbourne Cup during the week, forcing him into $26. He stayed at that mark as one of the Cup favourites after his victory on Saturday but was as short as $21 and equal favourite with other betting agencies.
Schabau had lengths on his rivals at the finish but Hickmott believes the horse had more to give if necessary.
“He wanted one to chase down today but obviously the calibre of horse wasn’t there to do that,” the trainer noted. “He can switch off the horse and there was plenty up his sleeve.”
Despite the wealth of rich interstate Cup races to come over the next few months, Hickmott is sticking to his original plan for Schabau.
“He goes to the paddock now for four to five weeks and comes back for a shot at The Bart Cummings,” he said. “Win that and we’re in (the Melbourne Cup).”
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