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  • Provincial Racing NSW


LEADING Newcastle trainer Kris Lees will renew a successful association with Hong Kong-based Hugh Bowman at two feature meetings this week.

He has booked Bowman for Protagonist in Thursday’s $200,000 Listed Rowley Mile (1600m) at Hawkesbury, and Ucalledit in Saturday’s $250,000 Group 3 Show County Quality (1200m) at Royal Randwick. Bowman has ridden 147 winners for Lees, including two Group 1s on the outstanding Samantha Miss in 2008, another on Le Romain in the 2016 Cantala Stakes at Flemington, and the $5m All Star Mile at The Valley in 2021 on Mugatoo.

“Hugh has been holidaying with his family in Thailand and is back home before returning to Hong Kong for the start of the new season early next month,” Lees said this afternoon.

“He agreed to go to Hawkesbury to ride Protagonist, who has 60kg, as the weight suited him. “And the same with Ucalledit, who has 58.5kg in the Show County.”

Protagonist, previously trained in the UK by William Haggas, is as member of the Australian Bloodstock team and is making his debut for Lees. The now seven-year-old had three starts in Sydney in autumn for Haggas, and won the Group 3 Sky High Stakes (2000m) at Rosehill Gardens in March at his local debut. Hawkesbury was rated a “Heavy 8” today, but Lees is hoping for an improving track condition as five of the gelding’s six career wins, including the Sky High, have been on good ground.

“Protagonist had two 1000m trials last month, and finished strongly to win his latest at Gosford on July 26,” Lees said. “He has shown he can pull out a run fresh (two of his five first-up starts have produced wins), and I’m happy with him. “Obviously, it’s good to have Hugh on board, and Protagonist has drawn nicely.” Protagonist had not raced since last October when he won the Sky High, with James McDonald aboard.

Lees also entered Ucalledit for Saturday’s $1m Group 1 wfa Winx Stakes (1400m), but has opted for the Show County Quality. Another member of the Australian Bloodstock team, Ucalledit is chasing a hat-trick, having won his last two starts, both Listed 1400m events, at Randwick. The six-year-old took the Civic Handicap on June 24 and then the Winter Stakes on July 8, beating stablemate Acquitted in the latter. Beaten Sydney Cup favorite Cleveland also will make his debut for Lees at Saturday’s Randwick meeting.

The Camelot six-year-old stallion lines up in the $250,000 Group 3 Premier’s Cup (2000m), and his Cup rider Kerrin McEvoy stays aboard. The former Irish stayer joined the leading Newcastle trainer’s stable after finishing down the track in the 3200m Cup at Randwick in April as a well-backed $4 chance. McEvoy eased up on him when he wasn’t in contention and, as a result, he was beaten nearly 30 lengths. “Cleveland had an internal bleed, and had a break at our farm at Ellalong,” Lees said. “He seems fine; there has been no indication that there has been any further problem. “After Saturday’s race, he will go to the Newcastle Cup.”

The $300,000 Group 3 Newcastle Gold Cup (2300m) will be run on September 15, and Lees is also aiming recent Rosehill placegetter Kalapour at his home town feature, which he won in 2020 with Mugatoo.

Article by John Curtis, 15th August 2023. Photo: Steve Hart.

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