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DREAM Hour already boasts a free Stradbroke Handicap ticket, but has a more immediate priority.

Leading Newcastle trainer Kris Lees has announced autumn’s Provincial-Midway Championships as the former Victorian’s next assignment.

Lees has won five of the nine runnings of the annual series Final – and is chasing his fourth in a row.

First run in 2015, he scored with Danish Twist (2016), Serene Miss (2018) and Cristal Breeze (2021) when restricted solely to provincial trainers.

RacingNSW changed the concept to include eligible Midway trainers in 2022 – but it hasn’t stopped the leading Newcastle trainer.

He has won both runnings, with Kinloch in 2022 and Spangler last year.

Dream Hour, with the addition of blinkers, earned his connections a guaranteed slot in next June’s Group 1 Stradbroke (1400m) at Eagle Farm by brilliantly winning the $300,000 The Gateway over the same distance there last Saturday.

“We have brought Dream Hour back to Newcastle to get him ready for the Provincial-Midway Championships,” Lees said.

“That looks the logical autumn target especially as he was dynamic over the 1400m, the same distance as the Final.”

Whilst the dates of qualifying races are yet to be confirmed – but expected to start at Kembla Grange on February 29, followed by Newcastle on March 2 and Hawkesbury on March 9 - prizemoney for the April 13 Final at Royal Randwick on Day 2 of The Championships has been doubled from $500,000 to $1m.

Dream Hour, a lightly-raced Dawn Approach four-year-old, has started seven times since joining Lees’ team for two wins and two placings.

The gelding was one of his trainer’s first time five metropolitan winners on the same day, and included the $2m The Ingham winner Loch Eagle.

As Dream Hour collected a Group 1 Stradbroke ticket, Loch Eagle’s victory guaranteed him a start in the Group 1 Doncaster Mile at Randwick on April 6 on the first day of The Championships.

But he also has a more pressing engagement, heading to the $1m Magic Millions Cup (1400m) on a mammoth 11-race program at the Gold Coast on January 13.

Lees, however, isn’t going to push ahead to attempt to qualify Justice Please for a start in the $3m Magic Millions 2YO Classic (1200m) that day.

The Justify filly, raced by a syndicate headed by former Newcastle trainer Cameron Waters, made a nice debut with a solid fourth to Highness in the $200,000 Wyong Magic Millions Classic (1100m last Wednesday.

“It was good to see her hit the line so well, but she has gone for a spell,” Lees said. “We’ll look to the future with her.”

Rustic Steel, who finished eighth to Loch Eagle in The Ingham, is also having a break.

“I feel he felt the firmer track last Saturday, so we will freshen him up and wait for hopefully some softer ground,” Lees said.

Randwick winner Zoe’s Promise, another of Lees’ “fab five” last week, will run next in the $300,000 Group 3 Belle Of The Turf Stakes (1600m) against her own sex at Gosford on December 28.

. Wins with Gerety at Murwillumbah on Friday and Imposant on the Beaumont track yesterday lifted Lees’ tally so far this season to 61.

Imposant ($2.70 favorite) and stablemate Bestower ($7.50), a pair of lightly-raced three-year-old fillies, ran the quinella in the Maiden Handicap (1200m) for fillies and mares on the Beaumont track.

Epaulette three-year-old Imposant, who carries the Le Romain colours of the Carusi family, is a half-sister to winners such as Juventus, Triple Ace and Great Danger.

Her so far unraced younger half-brother Scorching Legend (by Too Darn Hot) fetched $280,000 at the Inglis Classic yearling sale earlier this year.

Story John Curtis, December 18, 2023 - Pic Trackside Photography


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