Lees weighs up fresh attack on The Everest
TRAINER Kris Lees hasn't ruled setting In Her Time for an audacious first-up assault on the $14 million The TAB Everest if the mare misses a crucial lead-up race due to the rain-affected Royal Randwick track surface on Saturday.
In Her Time is among six Everest runners due to clash in the Group 2 $500,000 The Shorts (1100m) but Lees admitted he has concerns about the starting her on a track that was rated a heavy 9 on Wednesday.
"If it gets to a soft 6, we would probably run, a soft 7 is questionable, but she is very doubtful if the track stays in the heavy range,'' Lees said. "She will probably go to Newcastle for a track gallop between races instead.''
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Lees has the option of starting In Her Time in the Group 2 $500,000 Premiere Stakes (1200m) at Randwick on October 5 but conceded he is favouring going straight into The Everest on October 19.
"In Her Time has a great first-up record, she has won both her Group 1 races, The Galaxy and the Lightning Stakes, at her first run back from a spell,'' Lees said.
"This is the reason I was planning to give her a month from The Shorts to The Everest. She's had a good grounding and I'd have no qualms starting her first-up in The Everest.''
The Shorts has 11 acceptors including confirmed Everest starters Santa Ana Lane, Redzel, Pierata, Classique Legend and Sunlight.
But In Her Time isn't the only Shorts runner in doubt with connections of Santa Ana Lane and Sunlight in particular monitoring the Randwick track conditions.
Lees also has Graff entered for The Shorts and is inclined to start the sprinter who is trying to clinch an Everest slot.
"I need to discuss the situation with (owner) Alan Bell but we know that Graff has handled soft ground before and he did run well in The Everest last year (fifth to Redzel) on testing (heavy) going,'' Lees said.
"He's drawn the outside of the 11 runners but without knowing how the track is going to race, that might not be a bad draw as you probably don't want to be on the fence.
"But there is the Silver Eagle in three weeks and then the Golden Eagle to think about so if we haven't nutted something out for Graff and The Everest soon we may have to make a decision to go down that path.''
Graff did resume with a close third to Redzel and Pierata in the Concorde Stakes and Everest slot-holder James Harron has revealed he will be watching the sprinter's performance closely in The Shorts.
Lees is relying on sheer weight of numbers to finally secure his first hometown cup win, the Group 3 $160,000 Newcastle Gold Cup (2300m) on Friday with six starters and the first emergency - all owned by Australian Bloodstock, the syndication business managed by Luke Murrell and Jamie Lovett.
Red Cardinal, Big Duke, Saunter Boy, Mongolian Wolf, Doukhan, Our Candidate and emergency (Attention Run) give Lees a strong presence in the big race. Australian Bloodstock also has the Chris Waller-trained Mawaany Machine in the field.
Lees has some of his stayers also entered for the Group 3 $160,000 Kingston Town Stakes (2000m) at Randwick on Saturday and indicated on Wednesday that Big Duke and Doukhan are most likely to miss the Newcastle Gold Cup.
"I would say Red Cardinal will probably run at Newcastle, while Saunter Boy, Our Candidate and Attention Run will definitely race there (Friday),'' Lees said.