LEES CHASING HAWKESBURY GROUP 3 BREAKTHROUGH
THURSDAY: April 28, 2022: HAWKESBURY’S annual stand-alone meeting has been a happy hunting ground for Kris Lees.
In recent years, the leading Newcastle trainer has won the Listed XXXX Gold Rush twice with Felines and Tactical Advantage, the Clarendon Stakes with Graff, and supporting races with Danish Twist and Luncies.
But a Group 3 victory has so far eluded him, having just missed out when In Her Time, at her last start before being retired to stud, was pipped in the Hawkesbury Crown (1300m) in 2020 when the meeting was held at Rosehill Gardens as the COVID pandemic reared its ugly head.
Lees is hoping he can finally tick that Group box on Saturday with the talented Loch Eagle in the $200,000 Group 3 Blacktown Workers Club Group Hawkesbury Guineas (1400m).
Hugh Bowman is back on the lightly-raced Lonhro colt, who has won two of his only six starts and been placed in three.
Bowman has ridden Loch Eagle four times for two wins and as many placings, and Lees is understandably pleased to have him back on board.
“Loch Eagle is a nice horse, and I’m just hoping Hawkesbury doesn’t get to a really heavy track as he is better on soft ground,” he said this evening.
“Hugh rode him in his first two wins this time in work, but couldn’t ride him at 54kg when he ran second in the South Pacific Classic at Randwick three weeks ago.
“Loch Eagle has done well since that race. A couple of scratchings means he will start from barrier eight in a field of 12.”
Lees’ colt is no stranger to the Hawkesbury 1400m, having finished second on debut in a Maiden Plate there last October when an odds-on favorite.
The trainer’s star apprentice Dylan Gibbons returns to Saturday metropolitan racing on the talented import Kalapour in the Benchmark 78 Handicap (1800m).
His 3kg claim means the Irish import will carry 59kg; 2kg less than he carried when an impressive Australian debut winner in a Benchmark 78 Handicap (1500m) at Hawkesbury on April 13.
Lees is aiming to win the race for the second year running. He was successful last year with Luncies (Josh Parr), who carried 60kg.
“Kalapour is a very nice horse, and has trained on strongly since his Hawkesbury win,” he said.
“But I’m not sure how much further I will go with him after Saturday, this being his first campaign in Australia.”
Wandabaa (Parr) and Never Talk (Bowman) represent the stable in the $175,000 Group 3 Pioneer Services Hawkesbury Crown (1300m).
“Both mares are well and like wet ground,” Lees said. “They can both be competitive.”
Ventura Ocean has gone north to race at Eagle Farm on Saturday, leaving Lees with Samoot (Dylan Gibbons) and Grande Rumore (Bowman) in the Benchmark 78 Handicap (1300m).
“Grande Rumore was unlucky when third in this race last year,” he said.
“Samoot had a tick-over trial last Tuesday, and has the advantage of the inside draw.
“She can definitely improve on her latest Rosehill defeat in the Group 3 Birthday Card Stakes (1200m), and is back to Benchmark grade.”