TUESDAY, December 13, 2022: KRIS Lees has 20 per cent of the field as he chases a fourth consecutive Sky Racing Summer Provincial Series Final at Hawkesbury on Thursday.
Whereas then Hawkesbury trainer Bernie Kelly (who later relocated to Scone) won the inaugural 2018 final with Bobbing (who also clinched the Provincial Championships Final at Royal Randwick the following autumn), Lees has since dominated the annual five-heat qualifying series for provincial-trained horses.
The heats were run as Class 5 Plates, and the $150,000 Final (apprentices cannot claim) is also run at set weights with early favorite, Class 6 horse and Gosford heat winner Bethencourt, heading the weights with 60.5kg.
Lees scored with Occupy at Gosford in 2019, Itz Lily at Wyong (run in early January 2021), and Darleb on his home track at Newcastle last December.
Lees saddles Galaxy Belle ($6.50 second favorite with TAB.com.au), Ella Te Ama ($14) and Five Crowns ($17) in Thursday’s Final.
He has booked last Saturday’s $2m The Ingham winning rider Brenton Avdulla for Five Crowns, stable apprentice Dylan Gibbons for Elle Te Ama, and Aaron Bullock, who is riding a winning wave in recent weeks (including a Tuncurry double today for Lees), for Galaxy Belle.
Lees originally qualified Galaxy Belle courtesy of her victory in the last of the five heats at Newcastle on December 3, second heat Hawkesbury placegetter Five Crowns and fourth heat Kembla Grange placegetter Acquitted.
However, Acquitted came to the end of his campaign and went to the paddock, and Ella Te Ama gained a berth in the 15-horse field, having finished fourth to Burning Need in that Kembla heat on November 26.
Discussing his prospects this afternoon of making it four in a row, Lees had a leaning toward Galaxy Belle, the better fancied horse in the market, but did not dismiss his other pair as chances either.
“Galaxy Belle can mix her form, but is good on her day as she showed in winning the last heat with 58kg (1kg over) at Newcastle on December 3,” Lees said.
“She has trained on well since and should get a nice run.
“Five Crowns won his first two starts this campaign including a 1400m Benchmark 70 Handicap victory at Eagle Farm before running third in the Hawkesbury heat early last month.
“I’m forgetting his last start failure on the Kensington track when he got out the back and never got into the race.
“Ella Te Ama is a lightly-raced mare mare who is going well and deserves her spot in the final even though she has won only the two races from her seven starts.
“She ran second first-up at Scone over 1400m and wasn’t far away when fourth in the Kembla heat.
“Ella Te Ama will most likely get back from an awkward draw, but is not without a show on the limit weight (54kg).”