Aug 02, 2017
NEWCASTLE:Wednesday, August 2, 2017: INAUGURAL Country Championships winner Artlee is ready to return to racing – but his new trainer Kris Lees isn’t sure when.
Another barrier trial success today – this time at Gosford – convinced Lees to plan a comeback assignment in the coming weeks for the now seven-year-old.
Since joining Lees’ Broadmeadow team after being pre-trained at his Ellalong Farm in the Lower Hunter, Artlee has won both his trials.
He scored over 800m on the Beaumont track on July 17 and then over 1000m this morning. Aaron Bullock rode him on both occasions.
Artlee hasn’t raced since finishing down the course in Under The Louvre’s Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) when Eagle Farm was reopened (now closed again) on June 11 last year.
He had been placed in both the Group 2 Victory Stakes (1200m) and Group 3 BRC Sprint (1350m) – run at Doomben – prior to the Stradbroke.
“So far, so good with Artlee,” Lees said this afternoon. “I’m very pleased with how he is progressing and he’s ready to go back to the races.
“I’ve got a couple of options. He can resume in the Show County Quality at Randwick in two and a half weeks or a Benchmark 95 Handicap at Rosehill a week later.
“He will likely get a lot of weight in the latter. I’ll make up mind which race he runs in after his next solid gallop.”
The Group 3 Show County Quality (1200m) will be run on August 19, and the Benchmark 95 is also a 1200m race the following week.
Artlee won the first running of the Country Championships Final (1400m) at Randwick in 2015 when prepared at Muswellbrook by Todd Willan, who is no longer training.
He has raced only 16 times for six wins and four placings.
Doomben Cup winner Sense Of Occasion was given an easy trial at Gosford, finishing sixth to Sassaby in the opening 1000m heat.
Lees intends to trial the gelding again at Newcastle on August 16 before confirming when he resumes.
Import Hallelujah Boy, the first Japanese horse Lees has trained, was runner-up to Sassaby, and is getting closer to making his Australian debut.
“He is coming along well,” Lees said. “I’ll either trial him for a third time or look for a race in which to kick him off.”
Hallelujah Boy, purchased by Lees’ main client Australian Bloodstock and syndicated amongst clients, won twice in Japan (both at 1600m) from 12 starts.