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Craig Kerry – newcastleherald.com.au

Newcastle trainer Kris Lees may try to back up Mugatoo next Saturday in the group 1 Tancred Stakes (2400m) as the coronavirus pandemic puts the immediate future of racing in doubt.

Australian Bloodstock import Mugatoo was a half-length second in the group 3 Manion Cup (2400m) on Saturday at Rosehill on a Golden Slipper program run with only essential personnel allowed on track.

Young Rascal, a three-time group 3 winner in the UK, fought back to outstay Mugatoo, which was the odds-on favourite stepping up from victory over 2000m in the Canberra Cup.

 

Australian Bloodstock co-director Luke Murrell said after the race that Mugatoo and stablemate Mustajeer were unlikely to head to the Sydney Cup (3200m) on April 11.

 

Lees was pleased with Mugatoo’s effort on Saturday and was unsure where he would go next. It was the lightly raced five-year-old gelding’s first loss in Australia in four starts.

 

“Mugatoo was good, he was just beaten by a better stayer on the day. It was our first go at the trip,” Lees said. “He’s still a nice horse, we are just a bit undecided about where we go with him yet. We may even run next week in the Tancred. Everything is on the table.

 

“Who knows how long we will be racing for? It may be worth racing next week with a view to, who knows when they get to race again?”

 

Lees was one of few to witness racing live at Rosehill, where jockey Hugh Bowman claimed his first Golden Slipper aboard the Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott-trained Farnan. Bowman threw his googles to good friend Lees in the usually packed public area as he returned to the winners’ circle.

 

“There was no one else there and we just happened to be sitting there. He wanted them back, but I told him he’d have to buy them off Ebay,” Lees said with a laugh.

 

“It was a weird feeling, especially with such big races, with no post-race atmosphere, but we’ve got to be grateful we’re still racing at this stage. Beggars can’t be choosers.”

 

Lees was also happy with the performances of In Her Time and Aliferous at a meeting where on-pace runners dominated.

 

In Her Time, first-up since November, was 2.4 lengths back in sixth in the group 1 Galaxy (1100m), while Aliferous was 2.1 lengths away in fourth in the group 3 Epona Stakes (1900m).

 

“It was a bit of a tricky track, but that happens,” he said. “I can’t say there are any real disappointments there.

 

“[In Her Time] was a nice enough run. She was just probably looking for that little bit longer now that she’s a bit older, so she probably goes to the TJ Smith Stakes.”

 

“[Aliferous] looked the winner. She probably wants a real wet track at the level she’s racing at, but she’s competitive wherever she goes. She might even run there next week.”

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