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THERE is an interesting family link to Amokura, who seeks to achieve a remarkable rise to Group 1 status in Saturday’s Queensland Oaks at Eagle Farm.

A “veteran” of only five starts, Kermadec three-year-old Amokura (Damien Oliver) joins Yankee Hussel (Andrew Mallyon) to represent the Kris Lees stable in the 2200m fillies’ classic, which he won 18 years ago with Vitesse Dane.

Lees’ late father Max trained Amokura’s granddam Timeless Appeal, who won a two-year-old race at Royal Randwick on New Year’s Day 1998, ridden by Allan Robinson.

And Timeless Appeal’s sire was none other than his great sprinter Luskin Star, the “colossal colt from the coalfields”.

Amokura’s dam Fain (by Quest For Fame) was Timeless Appeal’s third foal, and never raced after finishing last in two Sydney barrier trials.

Amokura is chasing a hat-trick, having trounced her opposition in a Provincial Maiden (1850m) at Newcastle on April 22 before outstaying her rivals in a Class 1 Handicap (1800m) at the Sunshine Coast on May 21.

Whilst she has virtually come “out of the blue” to stake her claim for the Oaks, it hasn’t come as a total surprise altogether to her trainer.

“I always thought she was a nice type of staying filly, but she has exceeded expectations,” Lees said this afternoon.

“Obviously it’s a big jump to winning an Oaks, but these staying fillies on the rise can often do it, and she will further exceed our expectations again if she wins on Saturday.

“With Ollie on board and from the rails barrier, she should get a nice run.”

With pre-post favorite and lead-up The Roses winner Fireburn now an Oaks absentee, Amokura is at $14 with, and her stablemate is at $21.

Lees isn’t ruling out Yankee Hussel’s chances either – but with one proviso.

“She has to settle,” he said. “Her run in The Roses (2000m) at Doomben a fortnight ago, coming from near last to finish fifth to Fireburn was terrific and, if she does settle, she can certainly figure in the finish.

“Vitesse Dane also came from the rear when fourth to Cinque Cento in The Roses before turning the tables on that filly in the Oaks.”

Whereas Amokura was bred and is raced by the St Aubins Scone Partnership, American Pharoah filly fetched $120,000 at the 2021 Inglis Australian Easter yearling sale.

Lees also starts former New Zealand mare Bellatrix Black (Tim Clark) in the Benchmark 90 Handicap (1810m) at the Eagle Farm meeting.

He withdrew her from the Group 3 Lord Mayor’s Cup (1800m) at Eagle Farm last Saturday (in which stablemate Luncies ran second) in favour of this week, but says it isn’t an easy assignment either.

‘Bellatrix Black is well into her preparation, but hasn’t had any luck at her last couple of runs,” Lees said.

Luncies, meanwhile, will line up in next Saturday’s $1.2m Group 2 wfa The fQ22 (2200m) at the Stradbroke meeting at Eagle Farm.

Lees has withdrawn Spellcatcher from the Benchmark 78 Handicap (1200m) at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday, and may not have a runner at the meeting.

He is left with recent Newcastle placegetter Cloudland (Kody Nestor) in the Benchmark 72 Handicap (1400m), but is yet to decide on a start as the four-year-old gelding has drawn awkwardly, and the rail is out between five and six metres.

*Words John Curtis - June 1, 2023 - Pics Bradley Photos*

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