Sep 29, 2016
NEWCASTLE: Thursday, September 29, 2016: IT’S been 12 years since jockey Corey Brown provided Kris Lees with a Group 1 breakthrough.
And the trainer is hoping the now Singapore-based Brown can land him another feature in that very same race – the $750,000 The Metropolitan (2400m) – at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
Lees and Brown combined to win the 2004 edition with then stable stalwart County Tyrone, and this time they team with the lightly-weighted Sense Of Occasion.
Unlike stablemate Le Romain, who has the advantage of an inside barrier in Saturday’s $1m Epsom Handicap, Sense Of Occasion didn’t have the same fortune when the draw was made and has to overcome the outside alley in the 13-horse field.
But his trainer has by no means lost hope.
"Sense Of Occasion didn’t have any luck from a poor draw when fourth last time in the Newcastle Gold Cup," Lees said this afternoon.
"He is really well at present, and any rain in Sydney certainly will help him because he is such a good wet tracker.
"With his limit weight (51kg), I regard him as a genuine Top 4 chance."
Prior to his Newcastle Cup run, Sense Of Occasion won the Listed Premier’s Cup (1900m) at Rosehill Gardens in late August, overcoming a wide run in transit.
Lees runs his promising young sprinter Guard Of Honour (Hugh Bowman) in the $300,000 Group 2 Roman Consul Stakes (1200m) at only his fourth start.
But, realistically, he does not think he can upset brilliant Golden Rose winner Astern.
"With horses such as Astern and Capitalist (this year’s Golden Slipper winner) in the field, it’s really a Group 1 contest," Lees said.
"This is clearly Guard Of Honour’s biggest test. We’ll know a lot more about his potential on Saturday.
"I’m happy with the horse, but I doubt he can beat Astern at level weights."
Lees also begins a new campaign with Danish Twist (James McDonald) in the $300,000 Group 2 Premiere Stakes (1200m).
Danish Twist won four races on end last campaign, including the $400,000 Provincial Championships Final (1400m) at Randwick in April.
But she hasn’t won first-up before, and her trainer isn’t expecting that to change on Saturday.
"It won’t be an easy task under weight-for-age conditions, and I’ve got no doubt she will take improvement from this run," Lees said.
"Danish Twist will have only a light spring preparation, probably no more than three starts."
Her next outing is likely to be in the $200,000 Group 2 Tristarc Stakes (1400m) against her own sex at Caulfield on Cup day (October 15).
Rain will lift the chances of Wyong Cup winner Slow Pace (Tommy Berry) lining up in Saturday’s Craven Plate (2000m).
The import relished the heavy ground to land his first Australian victory in the Listed Wyong Cup (2100m) earlier this month, but wasn’t comfortable on a firmer surface when down the track behind Sacred Master in the Group 3 Newcastle Gold Cup (2200m) a fortnight later.
Two years ago, Slow Pace ran fourth to Moriarty in the Craven Plate. If he doesn’t run on Saturday, he will be amongst the entries for next Friday’s $100,000 Port Macquarie Cup (2000m).
Lees has three acceptors for Saturday’s Beaumont meeting, with Aaron Bullock booked for all of them.
Bachelor Heir will have blinkers back on in the Benchmark 65 Handicap (1350m), but Lees is keeping a close watch on the weather.
"He will start only if the track is firm, and can definitely run well if he gets those conditions," he said.
"First starter Atlantic Edge lacks experience and will need the run in the 1250m Maiden, and Letsava Win is going to need luck from his outside draw in the 1300m Class 1 Handicap."
Lees also has topweight Powerline (Bullock) and Selectify (Mitchell Bell) running in Sunday’s Coolmore Denman Cup (1280m) at Muswellbrook.