Mar 27, 2015
NEWCASTLE: Friday, March 27, 2015: JAPANESE star To The World and Godolphin import Hartnell dominate both discussions and pre-post betting on tomorrow’s $1.5m wfa The BMW at Rosehill Gardens.
But rival trainer Kris Lees is not prepared to concede defeat just yet.
Lees pits both his stable stars Protectionist and Lucia Valentina against the strongly fancied pair in the Group 1 feature and is looking forward to the clash.
“To The World is the highest-rated horse to come from Japan and Hartnell has looked terrific at both his Australian runs,” Lees said today.
“But I’m very happy with both of my horses and I’m sure they will run well. It will be an interesting contest.”
To The World has been heavily backed for his Australian debut and is currently $2.30 favorite with TAB.com.au, with opening favorite Hartnell now at $3.20.
Melbourne Cup winner Protectionist is gaining admirers and has firmed to $8, with Lucia Valentina at $9.50.
Discussing both horses, Lees said Protectionist would appreciate getting to a more suitable distance tomorrow.
“Obviously, he’s a great 3200m horse, but the two Melbourne runs over 1800m and 2000m have brought him on and his work last Saturday morning at Broadmeadow was his best since joining my stable.
“I’m expecting him to be strong through the line tomorrow, and go on to the Sydney Cup (3200m) at Randwick a fortnight later.
“Lucia Valentina has been responsible for a couple of great performances at 2400m, though she didn’t win either.
“She gave away a massive start when third in the ATC Oaks 12 months ago, and again came from well back when third in the Caulfield Cup in the spring.”
Lees also was pleased Rosehill had 34mm of rain dumped on it in Tuesday evening’s storm, ensuring tomorrow’s surface will have the jar out of it compared with last Saturday’s firm ground.
“It will definitely help both my horses,” he said.
Lees has three other Rosehill acceptors; Hera and Scorpio Queen in the $175,000 Group 2 Emancipation Stakes (1500m) and Slow Pace in the $150,000 Group 3 Neville Sellwood Stakes (2000m).
Queenslander Damian Browne rides Hera, Christian Reith is on Scorpio Queen and Brenton Avdulla has the Slow Pace mount.
Whilst Lees is definitely not conceding The BMW, he realistically acknowledges both Hera and Scorpio Queen will have their work cut out downing odds-on favorite Catkins under the set weights and penalties conditions of the Emancipation.
“Hera has the same weight (57kg) as Catkins and Scorpio Queen only 3kg less,” he said.
“It would be a different story if it was a handicap.
“Hera ran a terrific race when fifth in the Coolmore Classic last time, and Scorpio Queen also pleased me with her second in the Newcastle Newmarket.
“Of course, racing can sometimes produce funny results, but placings are probably the best we can hope for.”
Lees is not optimistic about Slow Pace’s chances in the Neville Sellwood.
“He needs to step up tomorrow. You would have to take him on trust.”