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KRIS Lees has settled on a two-pronged tilt as he attempts to defend his Listed Scone Cup “crown” tomorrow.

Having won the $200,000 Cup last year with Rustic Steel, he will rely on Luncies (Dylan Gibbons) and Acquitted (Jason Collett) in his bid to win the 1600m feature again.

Kembla Grange’s Brett Lazzarini is the other Provincial trainer to be represented in the Cup, with last year’s Group 3 Newcastle Cameron Handicap (1500m) winner Wild Chap (Jean Van Overmeire).

In fact, Lees has taken a line through Luncies’ first-up second to Wild Chap in the Cameron last September to have a crack at Scone’s flagship event.

“Luncies usually performs okay first-up, and is in really good order,” he said today.

“Whilst it wasn’t the strongest Cameron last year, I’m sure Luncies is going just as well and looks set for a nice campaign.

“The big track at Scone will suit him and, whilst he won’t back up in next week’s Doomben Cup, there are plenty of middle-distance races for him afterwards at the Brisbane winter carnival.”

Luncies carried his Newcastle form into the Melbourne spring by also running second in both the Group 3 Queen’s Cup (2600m) at Flemington and Group 2 Sandown Classic (2400m) at Caulfield.

He has trialled twice for his resumption, and at his latest beat four rivals in a 1200m heat at Wyong on May 2.

In latest Cup betting, Luncies is a $11 chance with in a typically open race with a maximum field, and stablemate Acquitted has firmed to $9 after being $15 earlier today.

Lees says Acquitted (pictured) should not be ruled out either provided the Scone track isn’t real fast (it is currently a Soft 5 and expected to be rated a Good 4 in the morning).

“He is very capable when he gets the right conditions as he showed when winning the Wyong heat of the Provincial-Midway Championship in late March on heavy ground,” he said.

Lees has listed new stable acquisition Bubba’s Bay as a doubtful runner in the Class 1 Handicap (1100m) from a wide draw, but Orlabent (Dylan Gibbons) and Adjourn (apprentice Ben Osmond) will definitely line up in the Maiden Handicap (1000m) and Class 1 Handicap (1600m) respectively.

“Orlabent is having his first run for me and resuming, and is going to take improvement from this outing,” Lees said.

“Adjourn will appreciate the 1600m and is coming back from a city Benchmark 72 to a Class 1.

“He has drawn poorly and will go back, but should hit the line well.”

Lees will run emergency Elarski (Gibbons) if she secures a start in the Benchmark 84 Country Cup (1400m), but she is also one of three stablemates in the Class 2 Handicap (1300m).

The others are Commandment (Aaron Bullock) and Little Beginnings (Jeff Penza).

“Commandment was good first-up over 1200m at Warwick Farm, but is going to need everything go his way from a wide draw tomorrow, whilst Little Beginnings has been improved by two runs back, did well last time when second at Newcastle, and can run well from an inside draw,” he said.

Along with Lees, Provincial trainers are well represented in Saturday’s main feature at Scone, the $200,000 Group 3 Dark Jewel Classic (1400m) for fillies and mares.

Lees’ sole runner is Never Talk (Dylan Gibbons), whilst leading Hawkesbury trainer Brad Widdup has Short Shorts (Van Overmeire), and Wyong’s Tracey Bartley, Kim Waugh and Kristen Buchanan have Barossa Rosa (Jason Collett), French Bonnett (Alysha Collett) and Oakfield Arrow respectively.

Buchanan has not yet secured a rider for Oakfield Arrow, who is fourth emergency.

Though Never Talk was never in contention at her latest start in the Group 3 Hawkesbury Crown at the stand-alone meeting late last month, Lees is prepared to overlook that.

“Never Talk drew awkwardly then and importantly has come up with a good gate this time,” he said.

“Her form around Zapateo (unlucky in the mares’ Group 1 Robert Sangster at Morphettville last Saturday) and subsequent Crown winner Princess Grace, in the Group 2 Sapphire Stakes (1200m) at Randwick at her previous start reads well for the Dark Jewel.”

*Words John Curtis - May 11, 2023 - Pics Bradley Photos*

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