Track specialist Clearly Innocent puts his unbeaten Scone record on the line when he defends his Luskin Star Stakes 'crown' on Saturday. And his new trainer Kris Lees says he is ready for the assignment.
Hugh Bowman will be a new rider for the talented sprinter when he makes his second appearance for the stable in the $150,000 Listed sprint to be run over 1300m.
Left: Clearly Innocent (Tommy Berry) - the chestnut is aiming up for his second successive Luskin Star Stakes. Image by - Steve Hart Photographics
Clearly Innocent was under the care of recently retired trainer Greg Bennett and had apprentice Sam Clenton in the saddle when he beat subsequent Doomben Ten Thousand winner Music Magnate in last year’s Luskin Star. It was his fifth victory from as many starts on his former home track.
At his first start for Lees, Clearly Innocent (Corey Brown) finished ninth to stablemate Felines in the Hawkesbury Rush (1100m) at the metropolitan meeting there on April 29. But it was a much better performance than it may appear on paper.
Clearly Innocent was forced to race wide throughout from an awkward draw, yet still finished off with purpose and was beaten only 2.5 lengths. The last 600m was run in just under 33secs, so his effort was excellent in the circumstances.
“He has come on well since Hawkesbury, and obviously his Scone form is impeccable,” Lees said this morning. “I’m looking forward to taking him back to the races on Saturday.”
Clearly Innocent carried 54kg in last year’s Luskin Star and jumps to 57.5kg on Saturday. But there is no Music Magnate, who is chasing a second consecutive Ten Thousand in Brisbane.
While Bowman rides Clearly Innocent, he won’t be aboard his recent winner Felines in the $150,000 Listed Ortensia Stakes (1100m). Glyn Schofield has the mount.
“I wasn’t really sure earlier I was going to run her at Scone,” Lees explained, and added the mare had trained on well since her Hawkesbury victory. “There’s no reason why she won’t race well again, especially from a nice draw,” Lees said.
Felines has won nine of her 28 starts, and first or second placing will lift her earnings beyond $500,000.
Lees has both Upscale and Raido (Tye Angland) engaged in the Benchmark 78 Handicap (1100m), but almost certainly will rely on the latter because of the former’s poor draw.
“Raido drew awkwardly at Canterbury at his last run and was beaten only two and a half lengths,” Lees said. “He is not without a chance in an open race.”
Lees’s other Saturday representatives are The Wasp (1100m Listed Denise’s Joy Stakes, Andrew Gibbons) and Just Dreaming (1400m Inglis 3YO Guineas, Christian Reith).
“It’s a big jump in grade for The Wasp, but she is racing well,” Lees said. “Just Dreaming is only lightly-raced so far and may be a bit outgraded, but she keeps improving and it’s worth having a crack at a $400,000 race with her.”
The Wasp has won three and been placed five times from nine starts, and Just Dreaming has raced on only five occasions for two wins and as many placings.