Schabau set for race return after injury

Mathew Toogood
Imported stayer Schabau is on a comeback aimed towards a start in the 2020 Melbourne Cup

Injury put an end to Melbourne Cup ambitions for Schabau in 2019 but the import is on the comeback trail and set to begin his path towards this year's race at Flemington.

Schabau returns in Saturday's Lexus Trophy (2000m) at Flemington for his first start since the Roy Higgins Quality (2600m) in March last year.

The Roy Higgins was German import's third win from as many Australian starts, all at Flemington, and he was high up in early betting for the 2019 Melbourne Cup after that win before suffering a tendon injury in his off foreleg.

"He had an eight per cent lesion - a grade one lesion - but there is never a good tendon injury if you do one," trainer Robert Hickmott said.

"He just gave it a bit of a tweak but we still gave him all the rehabilitation time that he needed.

"He had 11 months off and then commenced an off-track toning up program which has all gone well."

While there is always some caution and trepidation with horses coming back from injury, Hickmott says scans have shown the tendon has fully recovered and Schabau "hasn't put a hoof out of place" building up to his return.

Hickmott trained Green Moon (2012) and Almandin (2016) to win Melbourne Cups in his former role working for prominent racehorse owner Lloyd Williams.

He believes five-year-old Schabau has the untapped potential to be a Cup contender.

"I think he definitely has got Melbourne Cup potential," Hickmott said.

"He's got to realise that and still go ahead and take every run under his belt and continue to improve.

"But we'll give him a couple of runs this preparation, give him a short spell and have him wound up 100 per cent for The Bart Cummings and try to get in that way."

The winner of The Bart Cummings in spring earns a Melbourne Cup ballot exemption.

While Schabau is unbeaten in Australia, Hickmott anticipates he will be vulnerable on Saturday in his first start from a long lay-off, saying his fitness levels were about 80-85 per cent.

"I would have liked to have a couple more gallops just to condition him right up but he's such a clean-winded horse that has a great aerobic capacity so nothing would surprise," he said.

"He has got a great winning record so those horses can find ways of still winning but I'd be pleasantly surprised if he did.

"It would be above expectations in my eyes."