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  • Provincial Racing NSW


PROVINCIAL-MIDWAY Championships Final winner Territory Express is a Doomben Cup casualty.

The four-year-old’s trainer Paul Niceforo on Sunday ruled out backing him up in Saturday’s $1m Group 1 Cup (2000m) after he had finished fourth as a well-supported $3.40 second favorite to Tamworth Cup winner Gringotts in the Listed Members’ Handicap (1600m) at Doomben the previous day.

“The track was wetter than expected, and the run took more out of him than I had hoped,” Niceforo said.

“Territory Express was slow to begin and is his own worst enemy, and his rider Robbie Dolan said he was never comfortable on the tight track.

“We will bypass the Doomben Cup, and give him an extra week until the Lord Mayor’s Cup (1800m) at Eagle Farm in a fortnight.

“Territory Express is a big horse, and the roomier stretches at Eagle Farm will suit him better.”

The Group 3 Lord Mayor’s Cup carries a $200,000 purse, and is likely to be the gelding’s only other Queensland start before going for a break.

Leading Newcastle trainer Kris Lees will have a couple of interesting Lord Mayor’s Cup runners.

He intends to start both last year’s Moonee Valley Gold Cup winner Cleveland and newcomer Adelaide River, both of whom race in the famous navy blue and white colours of seven-times Melbourne Cup winning owner Lloyd Williams.

Cleveland loomed strongly into Melbourne Cup contention after winning the Group 2 Cup (2500m) at The Valley, but an elevated temperature forced his withdrawal the day before Australia’s famous two-miler at Flemington.

“All going well, Cleveland will have two Queensland runs, going to the $1.2m Group 2 wfa Q22 (2200m) at Eagle Farm on June 15 after the Lord Mayor’s Cup,” Lees said.

“Then we’ll look ahead to hopefully get him to the Melbourne Cup later in the year.”

Adelaide River has joined Lees’ team after nine starts – being unplaced only once – for legendary Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien.

The four-year-old son of Australia won the Group 3 Kilternan Stakes (2414m) at Leopardstown last September, and comes here with two Group 1 seconds; the Irish Derby (2414m) at The Curragh and GP De Paris (2400m) at Longchamps, both in July.

His only unplaced run was when eighth to stablemate Auguste Rodin (who also won the Irish Derby) in the Group 1 Epsom Derby (2400m) last June.

Meanwhile, Lees has decided to spell Tavi Time, who ran sixth as a $1.95 favorite in Gosford’s $500,000 The Coast (1600m), run at Newcastle on May 11.

“He is bred to handle the wet, but wasn’t comfortable on the heavy ground at home,” Lees said.

“His wheels also spun a bit when he ran second over 1400m at Rosehill Gardens in March.”

Tavi Time’s hollow victory in the Mudgee Cup (1600m) last December made him eligible for the $3m The Big Dance (1600m) at Royal Randwick in November.

Lees won the 2017 Doomben Cup with Sense Of Occasion, and hopes to win it again this year.

His classy mare Amokura, who won last year’s Group 1 Queensland Oaks (2200m) at Eagle Farm, will be his representative in Saturday’s feature.

Amokura steps up to a more suitable distance after being run off her legs when unplaced on resumption in a Benchmark 100 Handicap (1400m) at Rosehill on March 27.

Lees has kept her ticking over since, and she ran second in a 1200m trial on heavy ground at Muswellbrook on May 15.

. Hawkesbury trainers Terry Croft and James Ponsonby were winners at respective meetings at Parkes and Queanbeyan on Sunday.

Croft went home with the last two winners, taking the Parkes Showcase Cup (1600m) with $31 outsider Just A Brother (Mikayla Weir), and Class 2 Plate (1200m) with $8 chance Starros (Billy Owen).

Just A Brother had also won the Forbes Cup (1600m) last August, and his trainer is keen to give him another crack at this year’s renewal in a couple of months.

Ponsonby scored at Queanbeyan with $5.50 chance Sonny Fella (Jason Lyon), who took the Class 3 Handicap (1600m).

He put winkers back on the Choisir four-year-old, whom he purchased for $32,500 at the 2021 Inglis Ready2Race sale as an unaced early two-year-old when in only his second year of training after switching from standardbreds.

Sonny Fella has now won three races – his first two were at Gosford – and all have been at 1600m.

Story John Curtis, May 19, 2024 - Pics Bradley Photos


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