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  • Provincial Racing NSW


KRIS Lees has opted for blinkers on Amokura on Saturday as he chases a second Doomben Cup.

Having won the Group 1 feature seven years ago with Sense Of Occasion, the leading Newcastle trainer has booked Melbourne ace Mark Zahra for last year’s Queensland Oaks winner in the 2000m feature.

“Because it’s Doomben and she gets out of her ground, I’m hoping the blinkers will help her stay in touch on the tighter circuit,” Lees said on Friday morning.

“Amokura arrived safely at our Gold Coast stable earlier this morning, and I’ve been really happy with her since her first-up run at Rosehill Gardens.”

That was on April 27 when, with 59kg, she ran 11th to subsequent narrow Scone Cup runner-up Waterford in a Benchmark 100 Handicap (1500m).

Amokura has since had a tick-over 1200m trial at Muswellbrook on a heavy track on May 15 when a close second to stablemate Blackcomb.

Amokura’s Oaks victory at Eagle Farm last year was the fourth of Lees’ Queensland Group 1 winners in his current tally of 17.

Lees also accepted with three-year-old filly Kind Words (Andrew Mallyon) in the Doomben Cup, but will run only Amokura  as the former was second emergency for the $300,000 Group 2 The Roses (2000m) against her own age and sex, and has now secured a start.

Amokura’s jockey Mark Zahra also will ride her.

“They are a good bunch of fillies without their being a standout, and Kind Words can run well from an inside draw in the capacity field,” Lees said.

“I’ll also run Pier Pressure (Mallyon) in The Roses and, whilst she needs to turn the form around from her last failure in the Gold Coast Bracelet, she did run well when fourth in the Princess Stakes (1600m) at Eagle Farm at her previous start.”

Lees is especially pleased with the progress of Zoe’s Promise (Mallyon), who looks to clinch back-to-back wins in the Group 3 Drinkwise Mile.

“She was very dominant first-up over 1400m at Eagle Farm three weeks ago, and has come on well since,” he said.

“Provided she maintains her form, the Group 1 Tatts Tiara (1400m) at Eagle Farm at the end of June is a logical target.”

Lees runs both Rustic Steel (James McDonald) and Ucalledit (Michael Rodd) in the Group 3 BRC Sprint (1350m), with the winner gaining a “free ticket” into the $3m Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) at Eagle Farm on June 15.

“They’re both drawn awkwardly, and winkers go back on Rustic Steel, who comes back in distance after his 10th in the Doncaster Mile at Randwick on April 6 when he didn’t have much luck,” he said.

“Ucalledit wasn’t beaten far when fifth in The Archer (1300m) at Rockhampton last time, but this is stronger.”

Lees also runs Powerful Peg (Mallyon) in the Benchmark 85 Handicap (1350m) and Willinga Beast (Tyler Schiller) in the Listed Chief De Beers (1110m) at Doomben.

“Nothing went right for Powerful Peg last time, and she can run well being drawn much better, whilst Willinga Beast goes up for sale at the Gold Coast next week, and we’re looking to also see her run well prior to that.”

. Lees has four runners at the corresponding Royal Randwick meeting, with lightly-raced filly Bestower (Dylan Gibbons) making a last-minute bid in the 3YO Benchmark 72 Handicap (1800m) to earn a Queensland Oaks berth.

“She keeps improving, and was unlucky not to have won on the Kensington track last time when narrowly beaten,” Lees said.

“If she wins on Saturday or runs very well, she can go to Queensland for the Oaks (2200m) at Eagle Farm in a fortnight.”

Lees other Randwick runners are Thundering Soul (2YO Handicap, 1200m), Mo’s Crown (Benchmark 78 Handicap, 1000m), and Point King (Benchmark 88 Handicap, 2000m).

“I’ve put blinkers on Thundering Soul, who didn’t relish the heavy ground at the Gosford meeting held at Newcastle a fortnight ago,” he said.

“He will appreciate better ground, but still has to be taken on trust to some extent.

“I can’t say much about Mo’s Crown as I have had him for only a couple of weeks, but appears to have settled in well.

“He hasn’t raced for over 12 months, but trialled nicely at Gosford earlier in the week.

“Point King makes his Australian debut, and has 60kg at his first run since finishing fourth in the Irish St Leger Trial (2816m) at The Curragh last August.

“This race will be a good starting point. He can run well, but I expect he is going to appreciate further ground.”

Story John Curtis, May 24, 2024 - Pics Bradley Photos

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