Jun 08, 2017
NEWCASTLE: Thursday, June 8, 2017: IT’S clearly Kris Lees’ best chance to win Queensland’s signature race – and hopefully it will be third time lucky at Doomben on Saturday.
Lees will saddle topweight and favorite Clearly Innocent for the $1.5m Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap (1350m) after previously saddling two outsiders.
Lees’ only previous Stradbroke runners were $41 chance Britt’s Best (Darryl McLellan), who ran 11th to Thorn Park in 2004, and $101 roughie Scorpio Queen (Jim Byrne), who finished ninth behind River Lad – later to join his Newcastle stable – in 2014.
Chasing the 15th Group 1 success of his career, Lees admits dominant Group 1 Kingsford-Smith Cup (1300m) winner Clearly Innocent has to overcome a few hurdles to conclude his first campaign for his new trainer on a winning note.
“We weren’t even sure a couple of weeks ago that he would get a run in the Stradbroke; that’s why we ran him at weight-for-age in the Kingsford-Smith Cup at Eagle Farm,” Lees said this afternoon.
“Now he’s got 57kg topweight (weights were raised 1.5kg at acceptance time), the race has been transferred to the tighter Doomben track and he has an outside barrier (15 in a field of 16).
“There’s a few negatives there, but Clearly Innocent has come through this preparation really well, and I’m very happy with him.
“Provided Hugh can get some cover on him and he gets even luck in running, I’m sure he will make his presence felt.”
Both Lees and Clearly Innocent’s rider Hugh Bowman are due for a Stradbroke breakthrough.
Whilst Lees has started two roughies, Bowman has had seven mounts in the historic sprint – and twice finished in the placings.
He ran second on Queensland champ Buffering in 2012 and third on Generalife in 2015.
Bowman’s other Stradbroke rides were Our Egyptian Raine (9th in 2005), Red Oog (10th in 2006), Black Piranha (8th in 2011), Decision Time (17th in 2013) and Malaguerra (9th last year).
Lees has added two Group 1s to his belt at this Brisbane carnival. Sense Of Occasion stormed home to win the Doomben Cup (2000m) on May 20 and Clearly Innocent also overpowered his rivals to land the Kingsford-Smith Cup a week later.
They were his first Group 1 victories in Brisbane since Vitesse Dane (Bowman) took the 2005 Queensland Oaks at Eagle Farm. She backed up a week later and was an unlucky third – coming from near last at the 400m in the 20-horse field – to Lachlan River in the Queensland Derby.
Whilst he retains favouritism, bookmakers have put the skids under Clearly Innocent’s price since yesterday morning’s barrier draw.
A firming $3.40 chance prior to the draw, he is now out to $4.80 with TAB.com.au, and longer with some other corporates.
Clearly Innocent’s rise to Group 1 status has been such that he is now rated at 121lbs by the internationally-acknowledged Timeform Ratings Agency.
Timeform’s Australian guru Gary Crispe says the lanky sprinter has been lifted from a 112 rating prior to his second Luskin Star Stakes success at the Scone carnival on May 13.
“Like everyone, we were very impressed with both his Scone win and then his Kingsford-Smith performance at Eagle Farm,” Crispe said.
“We gave him a career-peak 121 after the Kingsford-Smith, and that is 1kg more than we rated Malaguerra, who won last year’s equivalent of the same race.
“Given Clearly Innocent now has 57kg topweight in a Group 1 sprint along with the move to Doomben and the wide draw as Kris pointed out, he is probably going to have to lift a couple more pounds to win the Stradbroke.
“But who’s to say he is not capable of doing it?”