The planning, with a slice of luck, is set to pay off for champion Newcastle trainer Kris Lees at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday.
Lees has eight horses going to the western Sydney track and the recent rain should keep the surface in the heavy range, although it won’t be a complete bog with the conditions improving leading up to the first race.
But out of those eight horses, seven have won on heavy ground and the other, Think Free, has won three from four on soft tracks.
“I think it will be a Soft 7 to a Heavy 8. The placement is probably good luck more than good management but it (wet form) is the first box you’ve got to tick,” Lees said.
“There’s a couple there that we’ve held back hoping for a wet track, like Doukhan. Some horses have just been waiting for the rain to come so hopefully it pays off.”
Doukhan races in the Stayers Cup, a rare 3200m race on the calendar, and he’s run in the top three of six occasions when gifted a heavy track.
Doukhan ran a credible eighth over 2400m last start off an eight-week let-up following a great performance in the Sydney Cup (3200m) in the spring when sent out at $101.
“It didn’t greatly surprise me because he ran all right in the Tancred and he was good in the Sydney Cup a year earlier so his two-mile credentials are okay,” Lees said. “He ran fifth in the Sydney Cup and he appreciates the soft ground. He was just beaten in this race last year, which was at Randwick.”
In the main race on the card, the Listed Civic Stakes, Lees saddles-up Star Reflection. She’s set to start over the odds again at about $23 with TAB, but it’s nothing like the $71 she was sent out when defeating favourite Seasons late last year at Randwick.
“She gets the right ground and she rarely runs a bad race,” he said. “She’s so consistent so she deserves her chance in Stakes racing and I think she’ll run well. The cut out of the ground makes a big difference to her, especially at this level.”
Think Free is coming out of a win in a Benchmark 70 race at Newcastle to a Benchmark 74 Handicap (1400m) on Saturday and she’s a filly by So You Think who will only get better over an extra 100m.
“I’m interested to see how Think Free handles Saturday grade,” Lees said. “She’s jumping a few grades now that she’s racing on Saturday but it’s the right time to do it. Blake (Shinn) is riding terrifically well, too.”
Clevanicc, in the last race, is in a similar position to Think Free but has drawn wide (11) but gets Shinn to ride him and he’s got first-up form. He too has to make the transition to Saturday grade.
“He seems to be coming up well. He had a nice recent trial and now we’ll see if he’s up to Saturday grade after winning at Canterbury last preparation,” Lees said. “It’s the right time of the year for him. He’ll improve deeper into the preparation.”
If you’re going to put your money on Kool Vinnie you know by now you’ll need him to get all the breaks in the run during his Benchmark 78 (1200m).
He does fire first-up and Lees said not to worry about his two lead-up trials where he ran well behind the winners for seventh and fifth place finishes.
“He’s been terribly unlucky in his career, particularly in one preparation, but he’s a horse that gets back and they don’t give themselves too many favours,” Lees said. “I think he’s in for a nice preparation. His trials probably haven’t caught that attention but his work has been good either side. He seems to be going well at home.”
Itz Lily did catch the eye with a lovely win against her own age last start at Randwick on a heavy track and she’ll carry the same weight and jockey today in a Benchmark 78 Handicap (1800m).
“She’s been up for a long time but she’s maintained her form on the track. She’s a little, light filly who well don’t do much with at home and that works for her,” Lees said. “If she can hold that form from the other day she’ll be competitive in that race.”
To kick-off the day for Lees, Articus and Mongolian Wolf take each other on in an Open Handicap (2000m).
“I think they’ve both been ticking over quite well while racing on unsuitable ground. They’ve been crying out for soft ground so hopefully they can run up to their best,” Lees said.
“This will be a true indication of where they’re at. They’re two horses that haven’t won for a while so you’d have to take them on trust on the soft ground.”
Story from dailytelegraph.com.au