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  • Provincial Racing NSW


KRIS Lees last year won a heat of the Provincial-Midway Championships, The Coast, Scone Cup and inaugural running of The Big Dance – all with Rustic Steel.

Now the leading Newcastle trainer is relying on the same horse to give him a breakthrough success in his home town’s richest race, The Hunter (1300m), at Broadmeadow on Saturday.

And he has booked Think About It’s Everest winning rider Sam Clipperton to hopefully land the $1m feature.

This will be the fifth running of The Hunter, and Lees finished second in each of the first three editions, with Tactical Advantage (2019), Special Reward (2020), and Wandabaa (2021).

Now six-year-old Rustic Steel, who fetched $500,000 as a 2019 Inglis Australian Easter yearling sale graduate, has won eight of his 19 starts for owners Ron and Judi Wanless, and earned just over $1.7m.

The gelding resumed from a lengthy break with an eye-catching seventh, coming from second last at the 400m, to I Am Me in the Group 3 Sydney Stakes (1200m) at Royal Randwick on October 14 – the same day Clipperton won his ninth race on Think About It in the $20m The Everest.

“Rustic Steel has since had a nice tick-over trial (a close second to Sneaky Paige) in an 818m Open trial at Warwick Farm last Wednesday,” Lees said.

“He looks like being my sole runner in The Hunter.”

Rustic Steel has raced only twice on his home track – and hasn’t been beaten.

He won a Benchmark 64 Handicap (1200m) in March 2021 at only his third start, and then a 1400m qualifying heat of the Provincial-Midway Championships in February last year.

Victory with Rustic Steel on Saturday would give Lees the “grand slam” of his home town features.

He has won four Newcastle Newmarkets (Princess Posh, Special Reward, Gem Song and Wandabaa), two Tibbie Stakes (Fine Bubbles and Princess Posh), a Newcastle Gold Cup (Mugatoo), and Spring Stakes (Invincible Gem).

Clipperton hasn’t got the same Newcastle resume, but won last year’s Spring Stakes at The Hunter meeting on $19 chance Pierossa for father and son Peter and Paul Snowden.

Lees’ stayers Cleveland and Kalapour have completed their spring campaigns, and are spelling.

Cleveland, who won the $750,000 Group 2 Gold Cup (2500m) at The Valley on October 27, was an unfortunate race eve withdrawal from last Tuesday’s $8.4m Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington with an elevated temperature, but recovered quickly.

Kalapour, after winning the Group 3 Archer Stakes (2500m) at Flemington yesterday week, had no luck whatsoever in the Cup and, after a wide run, dropped out to finish 20th behind Without A Fight.

Lees’ Queensland Oaks winner Amokura ($8) was a strong-finishing close third from well back in the Group 2 Matriarch Stakes (2000m) at Flemington at her Melbourne debut yesterday, but there was no joy with stablemate Luncies ($7.50) in the Group 3 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2600m).

He was never a factor from a wide draw and finished 10th to Muramasa, with Racing Victoria stewards subsequently reporting the gelding had suffered an internal bleed.

*Story John Curtis, November 12, 2023 - Pics Bradley Photos*

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