May 26, 2017
NEWCASTLE: Friday, May 26, 2017: KRIS Lees is confident Clearly Innocent can strengthen his Stradbroke Handicap claims with another good performance at Eagle Farm tomorrow.
Whilst he admits the much talked about surface is “anyone’s guess as to how it plays”, he is undaunted about the gelding stepping up to biggest test to date in weight-for-age companyin the $700,000 Group 1 Kingsford-Smith Cup (1300m).
Clearly Innocent burst into contention for the $1.5m Group 1 Stradbroke (1400m) at Eagle Farm in a fortnight by winning his second successive Luskin Star Stakes (1300m) at the Scone Cup carnival on May 13.
“Obviously it’s a big jump from a Listed race (the Luskin Star) to a Group 1 at weight-for-age,” Lees said today.
“But he has come on nicely since Scone, and some of the better-performed wfa horses in tomorrow’s race currently aren’t in the best of form.
“Clearly Innocent arrived safely at the Gold Coast yesterday morning after an overnight trip from Newcastle, and quickly settled in. I’m sure he will run well.”
Hugh Bowman partnered Clearly Innocent in his dominant Scone performance, and stays with him tomorrow.
Lees, understandably, is hoping Bowman can also ride the gelding in the Stradbroke (run under handicap conditions), but won’t be able to confirm that until weights for Queensland’s feature sprint are issued on Monday.
“Obviously, a win or a placing tomorrow will bring a bit extra weight for the Stradbroke,” he said.
Lees also runs Savoureux (Kerrin McEvoy) in the Benchmark 95 Handicap (1200m) at tomorrow’s Eagle Farm meeting.
Savoureux was never in the hunt when last to roughie With APromise in the Listed Silk Stocking (1200m) at the Gold Coast on May 6, but Lees is expecting a much better performance tomorrow.
“She drew the inside at the Coast, and I’m happier with her drawn out tomorrow,” he said.
“Savoureux is capable on her day, and can definitely improve.”
Lees has five acceptors at Royal Randwick tomorrow, but has opted not to start recent Scone fourth Just Dreaming in the Benchmark 72 Handicap (1400m) for three-year-old fillies.
“She drew poorly at Scone and ran a great race, and has drawn poorly again,” he said.
“We will wait another week with her, and hope for a more favourable barrier.”
Lees has called on master horseman Robert Thompson to reunite with Slow Pace in the Listed McKellCup (2400m).
Thompson partnered veteran Slow Pace to an upset victory in last year’s Wyong Gold Cup (2100m) on wet ground, and again will strike a rain-affected surface.
Slow Pace, after winning at Randwick on Anzac Day at big odds, ran last in the Lord Mayor’s Cup (2000m) at Rosehill Gardens on May 6.
“The only thing I can put it down to is that the track was too firm for him that day,” Lees said. “He can put in a bad run, but Randwick is going to suit him better.”
Talented mare Upscale (Tim Clark) resumes in the Open Handicap (1100m), and Lees is expecting a good showing.
Upscale hasn’t raced since mid-December, but is unbeaten from two first-up attempts, though admittedly in weaker company.
“She is coming along nicely, and I expect her to run well,” Lees said.
Stablemates Magic Of Dreams (Thompson) and Feelin The Love (TyeAngland) both will contest the Benchmark 78 Handicap (1200m) against their own sex.
“Both are chances in a very open race,” he said.