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  • Provincial Racing NSW


KRIS Lees will have a bevy of runners as he bids to add another Group 3 Newcastle Stakes (1400m) to his record on Friday.

The leading Newcastle trainer has won his home track’s feature autumn sprint four times in the last five years, and certainly won’t lack numbers in the $250,000 event.

Lees has named Rustic Steel, Loch Eagle, Kinloch, Ucalledit and Acquitted as likely starters.

However, he withdrew Acquitted from the Group 3 Liverpool City Cup (1300m) at Royal Randwick today, and says he won’t line him up on Friday unless the track is rain-affected.

“I’ll nominate all those horses, and make a decision midweek, but there is a chance all five could run,” Lees said.

“I haven’t finalised jockeys, but Dylan Gibbons and Sam Clipperton will have mounts.”

Lees won the Newcastle Stakes (previously Newmarket) four years in a row with Princess Posh (2019), Special Reward (2020), Gem Song (2021) and Wandabaa (2022).

He almost extended that winning streak to five last year when $19 chance Gem Song ran second to $2 favorite Cross Talk.

All four winners were raced by Australian Bloodstock syndicates.

Lees’ talented four-year-old Tavi Time (pictured) became an even firmer favorite for the Provincial-Midway Championships Final when he trounced his rivals in the second Qualifier (1400m) at Newcastle today.

Lees already has won five of the nine runnings, and this year’s 1400m Final at Randwick on April 13 on Day 2 of The Championships carries a $1m purse for the first time.

Tavi Time (Aaron Bullock) was all the rage for the Newcastle race, and justified his $1.35 price by showing a fine turn of foot in the straight to score eased down by four lengths from fellow Newcastle trainer Paul Perry’s Nosey Parker ($9); both horses automatically securing the third and fourth places in the Final field, joining Territory Express and Willaidow, who ran the quinella in Kembla Grange’s opening Qualifier (1400m) last Thursday.

Tavi Time was favorite for the Final prior to today’s race, but such was the ease of his victory that immediately slashed his quote from $4.50 to $2.80.

The Final is six weeks away, and Lees has to decide whether he will start the gelding again before April 13.

“It’s tempting to try him in stronger grade in town, but probably I won’t run him until the Final,” he said.

“He reacted well today at his first start since winning the Mudgee Cup (1600m) in early December.

“But there’s no rush to make a decision as to whether we run him again.”

Tavi Time is building a formidable record, having won six of his nine starts; six from eight since joining Lees’ team after beginning his career at Kembla Grange with the late Gwenda Markwell.

Lees will have a number of entries for the third Qualifier (1400m) at Hawkesbury on Saturday, including another smart four-year-old in Dream Hour.

The former Victorian became exempt from ballot for Brisbane’s Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) at Eagle Farm in June when he easily won the $300,000 The Gateway over the Stradbroke course on December 9.

Dream Hour has trialled twice recently, winning an 800m Gosford heat on February 15 and then finishing fourth to stablemate Razeta in a 1000m heat on the Beaumont track last Wednesday.

As with Tavi Time’s race, Saturday’s Hawkesbury Qualifier is also for eligible provincial horses only.

Story John Curtis, March 2, 2024 - Pics Bradley Photos

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