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KRIS Lees had a succinct appraisal of tomorrow’s $250,000 Newcastle Stakes – a race he has put his imprint on in recent years.

“If the favorite Jimmysstar is a superstar, he will win with the limit weight (54kg) and from the rails barrier,” the leading Newcastle trainer said this afternoon.

“But I have my own horses to worry about.”

Lees, who won the Group 3 Stakes four years in a row before finishing second last year with one of those winners Gem Song, accepted with five horses for the 1400m feature, and will have four lining up against the highly-rated Victorian, who dominates betting on the race.

He will run Loch Eagle (Dylan Gibbons) Rustic Steel (Sam Clipperton), Ucalledit (Aaron Bullock), and Acquitted (Regan Bayliss).

Kinloch is being reserved for the National Sprint (1400m) at Canberra on Sunday.

“Loch Eagle, Rustic Steel and Acquitted all are coming off breaks and will take improvement from tomorrow’s race, whereas Ucalledit has had the benefit of two recent runs and thus has a fitness edge,” Lees said.

“They can all be competitive.

“Loch Eagle gained a ticket into the Doncaster Mile at Randwick next month by winning the Group 2 The Ingham over the same 1600m course there in early December.

“He will have one more run after tomorrow before tackling the Doncaster.”

Lees has taken winkers off his near $2m earner Rustic Steel, who hasn’t raced since finishing eighth to Loch Eagle in The Ingham on December 9, and has performed strongly in two recent trials.

“Rustic Steel has been working well without winkers, and doesn’t need them,” Lees said.

RacingNSW stewards have given Lees permission for Aaron Bullock to ride Ucalled it 0.5kg over at 58kg.

In latest betting, Loch Eagle and Rustic Steel are at $10, Acquitted is at $15 and Ucalledit $18.

Former New Zealander Jimmysstar is a firming $1.80 favorite, with Five Diamonds winner Unspoken ($7) the only other horse under double figures.

Three withdrawals from the Stakes have lessened the field to 13.

. Lees also will have strength in numbers as he seeks to qualify two more horses at Hawkesbury on Saturday for the $1m Provincial-Midway Championships Final (1400m) at Randwick on April 13 (Day 2 of The Championships).

He has accepted with six horses for the 1400m Qualifier – restricted to eligible provincial horses only – and the first two placegetters will secure Final berths.

Lees has listed Willinga Freefall as a doubtful starter, but will run Dream Hour (Andrew Gibbons), Convincebility (Darryl McLellan), Little Beginnings (Aaron Bullock), Sailor (Christian Reith), and Pier Pressure (Andrew Adkins).

Dream Hour is resuming after winning the $300,000 The Gateway (1400m) at Eagle Farm on December 9 on a day where his trainer claimed a first ever five metropolitan winners on two tracks – and in the process qualified two horses for future Group 1s.

Loch Eagle’s The Ingham win gained him a Doncaster Mile berth, and Dream Hour got a ticket into Brisbane’s richest sprint, the Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) at Eagle Farm in June.

“Dream Hour is coming up nicely and goes into the Hawkesbury race on the back of two recent trials,” Lees said.

“He has drawn nicely and looks the pick of my team, but I’m also interested to see how three-year-old filly Pier Pressure shapes at her first run back.

“She was a Group 1 placegetter last season in the Sires (1400m) at Randwick, and blinkers come off her for resumption.”

. Meanwhile, Lees is considering starting his Provincial-Midway Championships favorite Tavi Time in a Benchmark 88 Handicap (1400m) at Rosehill on Saturday week.

If so, that would be his last start before the $1m PMC Final four weeks later.

Tavi Time became Lees’ first 2024 qualifier when he easily won last Saturday’s 1400m heat at home.

Story John Curtis, March 7, 2024 - Pics Bradley Photos


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