The small field nothwithstanding, trainer Kris Lees feels Sense Of Occasion again has to be “ridden back” to add Friday’s Gosford Gold Cup to his record.
Sense Of Occasion produced a last to first burst to clinch the $250,000 Group 2 Villiers Stakes (1600m) at Royal Randwick on December 17 to lift his stake earnings beyond $500,000 for his Newcastle connections.
Melbourne jockey Ben Melham rode him then, but his counterpart Damien Oliver takes over on the six-year-old in the $150,000 Listed Gosford Cup (2100m). Only six horses accepted for the event, and tactics clearly will play an important role in the outcome. However, Lees isn’t keen for Oliver to adopt a front-running role on Sense Of Occasion.
“I prefer him to be ridden back,” Lees said this morning from the Gold Coast, where he picked up four yearlings yesterday at the opening of the Magic Millions sales. “I’m sure that’s his best chance of winning again. I’m very happy with the horse; he has trained on really strongly since the Villiers.”
Left: Sense Of Occasion scores at Royal Randwick last start. Image by - Bradley Photographers
Sense Of Occasion’s Villiers success was his seventh from 29 starts. He carried 54kg then and rises 3kg at Gosford, though still 2kg behind topweight and last-start Group 3 Randwick Summer Cup winner Red Excitement.
Lees will decide after tomorrow’s provincial feature whether to proceed to the $150,000 Listed Australia Day Cup (2400m) at Randwick on January 26 with the versatile gelding, who has won from 1200m to 2400m.
More than likely, he will freshen him and have a crack at the $3m The Star Doncaster Mile at Randwick on April 1 - Day 1 of The Championships. Sense Of Occasion’s Villiers triumph automatically guaranteed him a place in the Doncaster line-up.
Lees has also booked Oliver for his remaining Gosford representatives, mares Press Report and Fashion Sniptz. Press Report runs in the Malcolm Cusick Stakes (1200m), and Fashion Sniptz in the Benchmark 65 Handicap (1600m).
Lees had two Cusick acceptors, but has withdrawn topweight Sarajevo (61.5kg) – who also carries the Australian Bloodstock colours - to rely on Press Report (60kg).
“She ran well in a much stronger race in Brisbane at her last start and is back in class,” Lees said. “The mare is in good order, and has drawn well enough. I’m regarding her as a good chance.”
Press Report, at her third outing since joining Lees’s stable, started at $31 when fourth (beaten little more than a length) to Kinschachi in the Listed Nudgee Quality (1200m) against her own sex at Eagle Farm on December 31. She carried 54kg then and rises 6kg going back to Class 4 company.
Fashion Sniptz, who carries the Lucia Valentina colours, finished fourth to Murraguldrie in a Benchmark 67 Handicap (1400m) at Warwick Farm on December 28, when having her second start this campaign: “She is always around the place, and is capable of winning a race such as this,” Lees said.
Fashion Sniptz’s two wins to date have both been on rain-affected ground; conditions which won’t prevail tomorrow unless there is rain later today or overnight.