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  • Provincial Racing NSW

LEES KEEPS THE FAITH WITHJ TAVI TIME




KRIS Lees has kept the faith with deposed favorite Tavi Time despite a wide draw, and Melbourne ace Mark Zahra is a new rider for third favorite Strait Acer.

They were the latest developments on Friday morning on the eve of Saturday’s $1m Provincial-Midway Championships Final (1400m) at Royal Randwick.

Tavi Time’s wide draw has led to a complete market reshuffle. After being a dominant $2.80 favorite just over a week ago, Tavi Time (Dylan Gibbons) has really had the “blows”, and this morning was a $5 second favorite with TAB.com.au.

Impressive Kembla Grange Qualifier winner Territory Express (Zac Lloyd) was a firming $3.90 favorite.

Tavi Time drew barrier 16 in the Final, but will jump from 13 in the 15-horse field if the three emergencies do not secure starts.

“I’m not too concerned,” Lees said on Friday morning.

“Provided they run along and Tavi Time gets three wide cover, he will be very strong at the finish.

“He is in great order.”

 



Lees has won five of the nine runnings of the annual series, including the last three in a row with Cristal Breeze (2021), Kinloch (2022) and Spangler last year.

He will have at least a third of the field (Little Beginnings is first emergency), and also has Baltic Coast (Blake Shinn), Convincebility (Chad Schofield), and the two “Willinga’s” – Freefall (James McDonald) and Beast (Tim Clark).

“The timing is right for Willinga Freefall, and Willinga Beast has bounced out of last Saturday’s TJ Smith Stakes really well,” Lees said.

“They are both there with definite chances.

“Baltic Coast and Convincebility are at long odds, but have done well to qualify for the Final.”

Hawkesbury trainer Edward Cummings has secured Zahra for Strait Acer ($7) as Jason Collett, who sustained bruising to his left ribs in a Kembla Grange incident earlier in the week, has been ruled unfit to fulfil Randwick commitments on Saturday.

Zahra is no stranger to the four-year-old, having ridden him when third in the Group 1 Rupert Clarke Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield last November.




There are two gear changes for the PMC Final. Willinga Freefall will wear ear muffs to the barrier, whilst a cross-over nose band goes on to Willaidow.

Collett’s absence also has led to fellow Hawkesbury trainer Brad Widdup securing Zahra for his filly Piplup in the Group 1 ATC Australian Oaks (2400m).

It is 18 years since Lees won the Group 1 Sydney Cup (3200m) with then stable stalwart County Tyrone, but he is bullish Kalapour (Gibbons) can do the job for him again tomorrow in the $2m feature.

He says the last start Tancred Stakes (2400m) winner has thrived since his upset victory at Rosehill Gardens a fortnight ago.

“I can’t fault him,” Lees said. “Even with weights raised 1.5kg, he still has a winnable 54kg.

“Don’t assess his 3200m chances tomorrow on his Melbourne Cup failure last November.

“He was at the end of his campaign, and had a tough run.

“Kalapour comes into tomorrow’s race at only his fourth run this time in work, and is peaking for the 3200m.”

Lees’ apprentice Dylan Gibbons also is chasing a second Sydney Cup, having won last year on Explosive Jack.

Lees also has a good chance with Miss Busslinger (Gibbons) in the Listed Fernhill Mile for two-year-olds.

“She keeps improving, and gives the impression the extra distance will suit her,” he said.

Miss Busslinger, a daughter of Saxon Warrior, wasn’t far away when fourth to Linebacker in the Group 3 Baillieu Handicap (1400m) at Rosehill a fortnight ago.

. Lees has four acceptors at his home track meeting on Saturday, and considers Naahro (Andrew Gibbons) may be the best of them in the Super Maiden Handicap

Story John Curtis, April 13, 2024 - Pics Bradley Photos

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