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RACINGNSW stewards considered lodging their own protest at Hawkesbury last Tuesday in regard to the controversial whip issue.

But they decided against it after locally-trained Sovereign Express ($3.40 favorite) had nudged out another local Big Boy George ($8.50) in a tight finish to the Midway Benchmark 68 Handicap (1300m).

Winning jockey Rory Hutchings was both suspended and fined for excessive use of the whip.

Hutchings pleaded guilty to a charge that he used the whip on seven occasions prior to the 100m, including two consecutive strikes just before the 100m (jockeys are permitted to use the whip five times to that point and not in consecutive strides).

Stewards said that having regard to both the overall totality of whip use in striking his mount on 21 occasions to the post and the narrow winning margin, they suspended Hutchings for a term beginning on Sunday until Saturday week (July 6) when he can ride again.

He was also fined $1000.

RacingNSW chairman of stewards Steve Railton officiated at the Hawkesbury meeting, and on Thursday revealed that his panel did consider protesting against Sovereign Express winning the race.

“In accordance with standard procedure, we identified the situation and delayed correct weight,” Railton said.

“We gave consideration to lodging a protest against the winner, but didn’t proceed.”

Meanwhile, leading Newcastle trainer Kris Lees’ dual Brisbane acceptor Willinga Beast is likely having her last race at Eagle Farm on Saturday.

The former Australian Bloodstock mare is now first emergency for the $700,000 Group 1 Tattersall’s Tiara (1400m), and though also first emergency for the Group 3 Healy Stakes (1200m), is already guaranteed a start.

Purchased for $625,000 at the 2021 Gold Magic Millions yearling sale, Willinga Beast was bought back by Arrowfield Stud for $675,000 at last month’s National Broodmare sale at the same venue.

“Our preference is to run Willinga Beast in the Group 1, but we need one more scratching (after Coeur Volante’s withdrawal) to get into the field,” stable spokesman Danny Greer said on Thursday morning.

“She will definitely go to the Healy if we miss out gaining a start in the Tiara.

“Arrowfield’s plan is to retire her to stud shortly, and this will probably be her last race.”

Willinga Beast has won only two races in her 19-start career, but has raced in black type company 14 times and has been thrice placed at Group 2 level.

She comes off a last start victory under Craig Williams in the Listed Hinkler Stakes (1200m) at Eagle Farm a fortnight ago when she defeated the luckless runner-up Pereille.

“Though we would like to have a crack at the 1400m Tiara, Willinga Beast is sharp enough to be competitive staying at the 1200m of the Healy, and Dylan Gibbons rides her,” Greer said.

Lees has withdrawn last year’s Group 2 Moonee Valley Gold Cup (2500m) winner Cleveland from Saturday’s Group 3 Tattersall’s Cup (2400m), where he intended to put blinkers back on him.

“Kris has the option of going to the Caloundra Cup (2400m) at the Sunshine Coast on Saturday week with Cleveland,” Greer said.

“Luncies has pulled up well from the Ipswich Cup, where he had no luck, and will run in the Caloundra Cup.”

Whilst Willinga Beast is not certain to make the Tiara field, Lees will still have a representative in Zoe’s Promise, to be ridden by Michael Rodd.

“Her last run was good when she made the running and was beaten just over two lengths when seventh in the National Classic (1600m) at Eagle Farm on June 8,” Greer said.

“She has had three weeks between runs, and Michael will suit her style of racing.

“Zoe’s Promise is drawn awkwardly, but comes back to 1400m, where she was dominant in winning first-up at this track on May 4, albeit in easier class.”

. Lees has three runners on the 11-race program at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday, and all have different jockeys.

Apprentice Molly Bourke, who rode a double at Warwick Farm yesterday, partners Convincebility in the Benchmark 72 Handicap (1400m), Sam Clipperton rides Blackcomb in the Benchmark 78 Handicap (1800m), and Kerrin McEvoy is on Hellavadancer in the Benchmark 78 Handicap (1200m).

“Convincebility’s last run when second to Pure Alpha (a rival again) on the Kensington track was full of merit,” Greer said.

“We have also accepted with him at Newcastle in the Conditional Benchmark 68 Handicap (1400m), where he has drawn awkwardly, and a decision has to be made where he goes.

“Blackcomb is another drawn poorly in a big field, but getting to 1800m suits better.

“Hopefully we can get cover on her, but she is going to need some luck.

“Hellavadancer is resuming, but went out on a winning note at Eagle Farm in early March.

“She won two of her three last starts in Brisbane before a break, and has had two trials to prepare her for this return.

“It’s another big field, but she is coming up nicely and isn’t without a chance.”

Story John Curtis, June 27, 2024 - Pics Bradley Photos

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