Kris Lees is targeting Grafton’s feature sprint next Wednesday with first-up specialist Zestful.
Lees today confirmed the six-year-old mare as a definite runner in the $160,000 Grafton District Services Club Ramornie Handicap (1200m), and has booked Corey Brown to ride her.
Zestful has won three of her four starts when resuming, and has trialled twice in preparation for a first-up tilt at the Ramornie. She ran second to Chauffeur over 1000m at Wyong on June 15, and 12 days later won a 900m Cessnock trial.
“I haven’t had many runners in the Ramornie, and Zestful is ready to go there and run well,” Lees said. “Her trials have been good and she is in great order.”
Lees is yet to win Grafton’s time-honored sprint but has managed two minor placings with now retired stable favorites. He ran second with Captain Bax (Tim Clark) to The Jackal in 2008, and third with Motspur (Brad Pengelly) to Jerezana in 2011.
Zestful hasn’t raced since finishing second to Faraway Town in the Group 3 Triscay Stakes (1200m) at Royal Randwick on February 17; a race which she won the previous year. She has 56.5kg at Grafton.
Lees also will have two runners in the $80,000 Tursa Inglis Bonus Grafton Guineas (1600m) on Wednesday’s Ramornie program.
Brown partners Turnberry and Tasmanian-based Craig Newitt rides Chalmers. Turnberry has been freshened since finishing 12th to Dark Dream in the Group 1 Queensland Derby (2200m) at Doomben on June 9. Two starts earlier, he was runner-up to Kurnel Jaxon in a Benchmark 70 Handicap over the Grafton Guineas distance.
Chalmers has been in outstanding form this campaign, winning twice and finishing second twice from four starts. He was kept up to the mark for his Grafton trip with a Cessnock trial on June 27 when he finished sixth to stablemate Tactical Advantage over 900m.
Lees has nominated 38 rising two-year-olds for next year’s $3.5m Golden Slipper Stakes (1200m) at Rosehill Gardens. A record 2452 youngsters (1205 colts and geldings and 1247 fillies) have been entered for the world’s richest two-year-old race.
Lees has withdrawn Weigela from the 1200m Maiden Plate at Newcastle tomorrow, and will rely on Sunreel (Andrew Gibbons). His other local starters are debutants Peyton Place (Gibbons) and Silver Melody (Robert Thompson) in the 900m Maiden Plate, Elicano (Thompson), Aliferous (Mitchell Bell) and Mimic (Gibbons) in the 1200m 2YO Maiden Plate, and Ivory Jane (Gibbons) in the 1400m Class 1 Handicap).