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  • Provincial Racing NSW


LEADING Newcastle trainer Kris Lees is looking to newcomer Cleveland to strengthen his hometown Cup hand when he debuts for him at Royal Randwick on Saturday.

The former Irish stayer, a beaten Sydney Cup favorite in April, lines up in the $250,000 Group 3 Premier’s Cup (2000m). Cleveland started at $4 in the 3200m Group 1 Cup, but finished a distant 16th and afterwards was found to have suffered an internal bleed. Cleveland remained in Australia and joined Lees’ team, and he is happy with the manner in which the horse is progressing.

“I expect the Premier’s Cup will be too short for him, but it’s a suitable race to get him going again,” Lees said this evening. “He’ll go straight to the Newcastle Cup after Saturday’s race.”

The $300,000 Group 3 Newcastle Gold Cup (2300m), which Lees won in 2020 with Mugatoo, will be run on September 15, and the trainer also has excellent Premier’s Cup Prelude third placegetter Kalapour heading for Broadmeadow after tackling the $240,000 Listed Wyong Cup (2100m) on September 1. Cleveland will wear ear muffs on the way to the start on Saturday, but they will be removed at the barrier.

“He’s a stallion, and it’s a precautionary measure to ensure he stays settled,” Lees explained.

Kerrin McEvoy, who rode Cleveland in the Sydney Cup, again has the mount, and Hugh Bowman will ride the stable’s other Randwick runner Ucalledit in the Group 3 Show County Quality (1200m). Ucalledit is chasing a hat-trick, but both wins were at 1400m and he hasn’t raced since taking the Listed Winter Stakes at Randwick on July 8.

“He doesn’t have any real form at 1200m, but hasn’t run poorly at the distance either,” Lees said. Lees was understandably disappointed another stable acquisition Protagonist ($3.60 favorite) was narrowly beaten in the $200,000 Listed Rowley Mile at Hawkesbury today, but was delighted with his performance.

Having his first start since April, Protagonist conceded 3kg to winner Bold Mac ($3.80), who had won his previous two Sydney starts. Whilst the tense finish had many unsure who had won, Lees wasn’t expecting his gelding to get the photo-finish result.

“Protagonist will go to the Group 3 Kingston Town Stakes (2000m) at Randwick the day after the Newcastle Cup is run,” Lees said.

RacingNSW stewards reported Protagonist jumped awkwardly in the Rowley Mile, then shifted out under pressure between the 150m and 100m, forcing Bowman to stop riding and straighten the gelding. Lees has three acceptors for Saturday’s Doomben meeting, but is yet to confirm a start for Bubba’s Bay (Andrew Mallyon) in the Class 3 Plate (1200m).

There are already nine scratchings from the huge field, but the mare has still drawn awkwardly. “I’ll wait and see if there are further withdrawals, but she might not run,” Lees said.

Mallyon will ride Prime Impact, who is chasing four wins on the trot in the No Metropolitan Win Handicap (1600m), and Animate (Open Handicap, 1350m). “Prime Impact is going well and might take some catching if he can get his own way in front,” Lees said. “Animate was good first up at the Sunshine Coast when just under two lengths from stablemate Snowzone, but might need one more run. “Still, he has won three times second-up previously.”

Lees runs Oakfield Prince (Aaron Bullock) in Saturday’s Benchmark 64 Handicap (1400m) at Newcastle (the rail is out 8 metres), and has French Marine (apprentice Ben Osmond), Mobstar (Bullock) and Memoria (Andrew Gibbons) in the Provincial Benchmark 68 Handicap (1250m). “Oakfield Prince had no luck at all when a beaten favorite at Kembla Grange a fortnight ago,” Lees said. “It was a horror watch.

“Mobstar would be the pick of our three runners in the last race.”

Article by John Curtis, August 17th 2023. Photo: Bradley Photographers

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