Rolfe hopes Dubai Centre can deliver first Highway Handicap

Michael Heagney and the John Rolfe-trained Dubai Centre will take on Saturday’s 1600m Class Three Highway Handicap at Royal Randwick. Photo: Racing Photography.

Canberra trainer John Rolfe will be out to win his first Highway Handicap at Royal Randwick on Saturday when Dubai Centre ($15) contests the 1600m Class Three event.

Following back-to-back wins in the Winter Country Classic final at Dubbo on June 26 and at Albury on July 12, the four-year-old gets in nicely with gate one in the $100,000 event. 

Queanbeyan jockey Michael Heagney, who has ridden Dubai Centre this preparation, takes the ride again, and despite the predicted heavy 10 conditions, Rolfe believes the pair should be quite positive in the run and every chance when they enter the long Royal Randwick straight. 

“It probably will be a bit harder in the heavy conditions, but we don’t get a chance to race in them (Highway Handicaps) too often,” Rolfe said. 

“Barrier one should have him travelling in third, fourth or fifth, and we will see how he handles the conditions but I’m confident he will run a good race.”

The former Victorian has thrived in Rolfe’s care, and it was a good training effort last time out to have the Pride of Dubai gelding step up from1310m to 1500m, especially in the heavy conditions at Albury.

“I was really happy with the run,” Rolfe said. 

“The jockey (Heagney) said if it had been drier, he would have won by four or five lengths, but after we freshened him up for Dubbo, it was going to be tougher at Albury in those conditions. 

“We left home, and it was a soft six, and then it was a heavy eight when we got there. He was left wanting a little bit, but it was a good run, and he will be better for it, plus we know he is a lot better horse on a drier track.”

Dubai Centre was originally meant to race at Kembla Grange on Thursday, and while Rolfe admitted it would have been a more suitable race, he was still looking forward to watching his second ever starter in a Highway Handicap at Royal Randwick. 

“It’s hard for us to get in these races being in Canberra, and it is only because of the wet track that we got in,” Rolfe said. 

“We had him in at Kembla, and it was a suitable race, but it was washed out, and it will be harder in Sydney, but we will see how he goes.”

Rolfe will head up to Sydney on the morning of the race, with the in-form trainer indicating that his galloper would be more settled after the float trip down the Hume Highway.  

“He wouldn’t settle overnight if we went there, so we will leave at 6am in the morning,” Rolfe said.

“He is such a good traveller, and he goes to sleep when he gets on the float, and that will settle him down.”

Rolfe said a win in town would cap off a splendid preparation for Dubai Centre, which has raced five times since resuming from an 18-week spell at Gilgandra back in May, winning twice and placing twice for connections. 

“He has been going great,” Rolfe said.

“This time in, he has won twice, and he ran good seconds at Bathurst and Dubbo, and he was a certainty beaten at Gilgandra first-up. 

“We couldn’t ask for any more of him.”