It's the first running of a race named after his legendary father – and Kris Lees needs no other reason to win it at Newcastle on Sunday. But he has an extra incentive to land the Max Lees Classic (900m) for two-year-olds; his youngster Sizzleonthebridge is a “family horse”.
The Sizzling colt from Snippets mare and good producer Mill Bridge is raced by his mother Vicki in partnership with Nick Moraitis AM. His three-year-old half-brother La Pont (by Myboycharlie) finished a close second on debut at Scone on Thursday, and understandably, Lees is hoping Sizzleonthebridge (Tye Angland) can do even better when he begins his racing career on Sunday.
But he is hopeful more than confident about capturing the newest addition to Newcastle Jockey Club’s racing calendar.
“I’m expecting Sizzleonthebridge to go well, but he will definitely be better for the run,” Lees said. “David Atkins’s two-year-old (Jonker) looks the horse to beat. He was impressive in beating two of my other youngsters (Elisavet and Comiskey Park) in a recent trial on the Beaumont track.”
That was on November 21 when Jonker scored by a widening nine lengths over 800m on soft ground in 47.56secs; the same day Sizzleonthebridge also comfortably won an 800m heat in a slower 49.42secs. The Max Lees Classic is being run at set weights and penalties with a $50,000 purse; and all but one (filly Mini Model) of the eight acceptors are facing the starter for the first time.
Angland also partners Excelamour (F&M Class 2 Handicap, 1400m) and Juventus (Provincial & Country Maiden Plate, 1300m) for Lees at Sunday’s meeting.
“Excelamour was very brave at her first try at 1400m at Hawkesbury recently, and will be better for that,” Lees said. “She has a soft gate and should run well.
“Juventus raced a bit fiercely first-up at Canterbury when fourth at the last night meeting (November 17), and I’ve taken blinkers off and instead put winkers on. From the inside gate, he should get the right run and be hard to beat.
"Heat Haze (Brenton Avdulla) also runs in this race and is not far off a win either. However, with the better draw, I am leaning toward Juventus.”