Fresh from a Brisbane winter carnival Group 1 double, Kris Lees turns his attention to Hawkesbury tomorrow to build on his already record-breaking season.
And the leading Newcastle trainer is confident his sole representative, “slow maturer” Labrooke (Brenton Avdulla), can start to show middle-distance potential in the Say ‘No’ To Domestic Violence Class 2 Handicap (1800m).
The four-year-old is a member of the Australian Bloodstock team, and has raced only 13 times for two wins and four placings.
A gelded son of Hinchinbrook, Labrooke is out of the Zabeel mare Laebeel, who won the 1998 2000m Matriarch Stakes (which Lees won with Lucia Valentina in 2015) at the Melbourne Cup carnival, and the following year was narrowly beaten by Sky Heights in the Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m).
“Labrooke has had little issues and been a slow maturer but I’ve always felt he could manage a middle distance, and gets his chance to show it tomorrow,” Lees said.
“His last run at the track was really good, and the step up to 1800m will suit him.”
Labrooke’s two wins to date have been on country tracks; over 1408m at Port Macquarie and 1600m at Tuncurry in April and December last year respectively.
Lees has tested him only once beyond 1600m, and gave him a break after finishing sixth as favourite in a 2000m Benchmark 55 Handicap at Port Macquarie in January, when he struggled under a hefty impost (62.5kg).
He has raced twice since resuming, and caught the eye at his latest outing when second to Lady Sansa in a 1600m Class 2 Handicap at Hawkesbury on May 18.
Apprentice Rachel King rode Labrooke then, but Lees has turned to the more experienced Avdulla for tomorrow’s assignment.
Labrooke has 55.5kg, the same as his original handicap last time before King claimed her 1.5kg allowance.
Lees’ Group 1 victories with Sense Of Occasion (Doomben Cup) and Clearly Innocent (Kingsford-Smith Cup) on the last two Saturdays of the Brisbane carnival have lifted him to a record 122 wins for the current season, bettering his previous best of 120 two years ago.
His horses have earned $7,849,019 so far this season (with two months remaining), surpassing last year’s benchmark of $7,526,523.
Additionally, his wins with Sense Of Occasion and Clearly Innocent came on top of Le Romain’s Group 1 triumphs in the Cantala Stakes (Flemington) and Canterbury Stakes (Royal Randwick); giving him four Group 1s in a season for the first time.
Tomorrow’s meeting features the final heat of the annual Rising Star Series for 2016-17, and Sydney’s leading apprentice Andrew Adkins is poised to celebrate a title success.
Adkins, with 32 points (including a win, three seconds and two thirds), has an unassailable lead.
Closest rivals Mikayla Weir and Nyssa Burrells do not have rides in the Blacktown Workers Club Group Benchmark 70 Handicap (1400m), and Blaike McDougall and Nick Heywood cannot catch him even if either was successful tomorrow.
Adkins partners Drill Master for Hawkesbury trainer Noel Mayfield-Smith, whilst McDougall rides Sworn In, one of two runners for trainer David Pfieffer.
Heywood, who rode a career best five winners at Newcastle last Saturday, has the mount on Legistation for another local trainer, Wade Slinkard.
Chris Waller withdrew Quick Defence from a Randwick assignment last Saturday, and Kiwi apprentice Lee Magorrian will ride him in the final Rising Star heat.
Long-time Hawkesbury trainer Ethne Potowski has great prospects of a home track double with Lion Couchant (Blacktown Workers Club Group Benchmark 75 Handicap, 1000m) and Happy Hustler (Richmond Club Maiden Handicap, 1400m). Tye Angland will ride the pair.
Lion Couchant notched the fifth win of his career upon resumption when an impressive winner over the same course at Hawkesbury on May 18, and drops 3kg for the rise in class.
Happy Hustler, a Casino Prince three-year-old, has raced only three times for one placing and will be fitter for his first-up sixth (beaten just over a length) in a similar race at home on the same program.
The rail is out 4m from the 1300m to the winning post and in the TRUE position for the remainder.
The track this morning was rated a “Good 4”, with a penetrometer reading of 4.91.
Selections RACE 1: BROTHER DARKNESS, Just Shine, Mount Taishan. RACE 2: WIRNPA, Weekend Affair, Tinker Dan. RACE 3: SULAYMANEE, Rainover Manhattan, Yeas and Nays. RACE 4: LION COUCHANT, Sangiovese, Dark Steel. RACE 5: HAPPY HUSTLER, Fairlighting, Our Anniversaire. RACE 6: KENT, Gold Tickets, Pleased. RACE 7: FIGTREE, Ready Set Sing, How Sweet It Is. RACE 8: LABROOKE, Vaucluse Bay, Awake The Stars. SPECIALS: HAPPY HUSTLER, LABROOKE, LION COUCHANT.