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  • Provincial Racing NSW

PMC QUALIFIER A SURPRISE TJ SMITH CANDIDATE




NEWCASTLE mare Willinga Beast is shaping as a surprise runner in Saturday’s Group 1 TJ Smith Stakes (1200m) at Royal Randwick.

Whilst she is already qualified for the $1m Provincial-Midway Championships Final (1400m) there on Saturday week, the forecast of wet weather later this week prompted trainer Kris Lees to accept with her for the feature $3m sprint on the opening day of The Championships.

Willinga Beast excels on heavy ground. Her five starts on that surface have produced a win and three placings.

Those three placings all were at the TJ Smith 1200m at Randwick and in Group company in 2022; the Percy Sykes Stakes, Furious Stakes and Roman Consul Stakes.

Willinga Beast qualified for the PMC Final on Day 2 of The Championships by finishing an excellent second to another mare Shadows Of Love in the 1200m Gosford heat on a “Good 4” surface on March 16.

“With so much wet weather forecast for later in the week, we felt it was worthwhile accepting for the TJ Smith,” Lees said this morning.

“She can still run the following week in the Provincial-Midway Final.”

Lees also will have two representatives in the $4m Group 1 Doncaster Mile on Saturday.

Stable apprentice Dylan Gibbons rides Loch Eagle, again combining with Lees to chase another major after landing last Saturday’s $1.5m Tancred Stakes (2400m) at Rosehill Gardens on Kalapour, and Tom Sherry rides Rustic Steel.




Loch Eagle gained a “free ticket” into the Doncaster by winning the Group 2 The Ingham (formerly Villiers Stakes) over the same course at Randwick last December.

“Loch Eagle was already in the race, and after speaking with Rustic Steel’s owners, the Wanless family in Brisbane, it has also been decided to back him up after finishing sixth in the Doncaster Prelude (1500m) at Rosehill last Saturday,” Lees said.

“Both horses like wet ground, and that was the main reason to accept with Rustic Steel.

“He had 59kg at Rosehill, and drops 7kg.”

Lees reported Kalapour has come through his Tancred victory well, and is on track to line up in Saturday week’s $2m Group 1 Sydney Cup (3200m).

“He is not going to get into another big handicap with 52.5kg after winning a Group 1, so we may as well have a crack at the Cup,” he said.

. Meanwhile, Lees will have five runners in Wednesday’s Wild Card (1400m) at Newcastle, hoping to add to his current three qualifiers (Tavi Time, Convincebility and Willinga Beast) for the PMC Final.

He runs Cloudland (Dylan Gibbons), Willinga Freefall (Jason Collett), Basarwa (Andrew Gibbons), Baltic Coast (Tim Clark) and Little Beginnings (apprentice Zac Lloyd).




Lees has made gear changes on both Basarwa and Little Beginnings.

Blinkers come off Basarwa, and also Little Beginnings, but replaced by winkers.

“Willinga Freefall’s third in the Gosford Qualifier was terrific coming from well back, and he looks to be our main chance,” Lees said.

“Cloudland was disappointing in the Kembla Grange Qualifier last Saturday week, but is very capable on his day.”

The first three placegetters in the Wild Card all qualify for Saturday week’s Final.

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

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