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  • Provincial Racing NSW


TAVI Time is back as Provincial-Midway Championships favorite and will open his campaign at home on Saturday.

The talented four-year-old is one of leading Newcastle trainer Kris Lees’ trio of acceptors for the $150,000 second Qualifier (1400m), with the first two placegetters going through to the $1m Final (1400m) at Royal Randwick on April 13.

After Strait Acer was unplaced in today’s opening heat at Kembla Grange, eased his price from $3.50 to $6, with Tavi Time remaining at $4.50.

Aaron Bullock returns from early rides on Adios Steve and unbeaten Perennial at Royal Randwick to partner Tavi Time in the Newcastle closer at 5.40pm.

Lees also accepted with Sailor (Andrew Gibbons) and Prime Impact (Christian Reith), but has delayed a decision until tomorrow about a start for the former.

Winkers go on Prime Impact, who has had one run back from a break, but it’s Tavi Time who is clearly the stable elect.

“He is in great order,” Lees said this evening.

“Provided he qualifies on Saturday, I’ll be guided by his progress as to whether he has another run in between.

“But the Final is another six weeks away.”

Tavi Time has won five of his eight starts; the latest a hollow victory in the Mudgee Cup (1600m) on December 2, when Bullock rode him.

The form was confirmed when distant runner-up Belleistic Kids came out and won at Randwick at his next start.

Market assessors have listed the Newcastle Qualifier as a “race in two” between Tavi Time ($1.95) and Hawkesbury mare Ausbred Flirt ($3.20).

But Ausbred Flirt’s trainer Brad Widdup was inspecting yearlings in Melbourne today, and is yet to confirm whether she will run at Newcastle or stay in Sydney for the Group 2 Proven Thoroughbreds Guy Walter Stakes (1400m) against her own sex at Randwick.

Territory Express ($6) and Willaidow ($4) were the first two horses to qualify for the PMC Final when they ran first and second in today’s opening heat at Kembla Grange, where an easing $2.80 favorite Strait Acer could finish only sixth.

Jockey Tommy Berry told RacingNSW stewards he was confident of victory on the home turn, but Strait Acer did not finish off as expected and was somewhat disappointing.

A post-race veterinary examination did not reveal any abnormalities.

Meanwhile, Lees has three acceptors at Saturday’s Randwick meeting, but Kind Words has a sore foot and will be an absentee from the Group 1 Surround Stakes (1400m).

That leaves Aprilia (Benchmark 88 Handicap, 1200m) and Acquitted (Group 3 Liverpool City Cup, 1200m).

Jay Ford rides Aprilia, and Dylan Gibbons is booked for Acquitted.

“Aprilia is having her first start for us, and is tricky to place but has to start off somewhere,” Lees said.

Aprilia races in the Lucia Valentina colours, and was runner-up in the Group 2 Edward Manifold Stakes (1600m) against her own age and sex at Flemington last October.

“I’m hoping there is some rain to suit Acquitted in the Liverpool City Cup,” Lees said.

“It’s come up a strong race. If he doesn’t run, we’ll wait for the Newcastle Stakes (1400m) at home next Friday.”

Whilst Lees’ Randwick contingent is small, it’s a different story at Eagle Farm on Saturday.

He has seven acceptors, but won’t run Oakfield Duke, who drew awkwardly in the Benchmark 70 Handicap (1200m) with the rail out seven metres.

Instead, Lees will rely on Orlabent (James Orman) and Strapparsi (apprentice Bailey Wheeler).

“Orlabent is racing well and deserves another win, and there’s nothing wrong with Strapparsi’s form either,” he said.

Lees other Eagle Farm representatives are Oakfield Wallaby (Benchmark 78 Handicap, 2206m), Hellavadancer (Benchmark 78 Handicap, 1400m), Quarantine Dreams (Class 1 Handicap, 1400m), and Five Crowns (Bench mark 88 Handicap, 1600m).

Andrew Mallyon rides Oakfield Wallaby, Hellavadancer and Five Crowns, and Bailey Wheeler claims 2kg on Quarantine Dreams.

“Both Oakfield Wallaby and Hellavadancer are in good form, and look nicely placed in their respective races,” Lees said.

“Quarantine Dreams was a bit stiff when runner-up at his first Brisbane start at Eagle Farm a fortnight ago, and Bailey’s claim means he comes down 1.5kg.

“Five Crowns generally races well in Brisbane, and is not without at least a place chance.

Story John Curtis, February 29, 2024 - Pics Bradley Photos

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