Kris Lees has put Princess Posh’s Provincial Championships’ failure down to “one of those mysteries” that can happen in racing. And he has assured punters that the mare is fit and ready to go in the Benchmark 80 Handicap (1400m) at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday.
After a first-up victory on her home track in the Newcastle Provincial Championships Qualifier (1400m) on March 31, Princess Posh had her supporters ($11 to $8) in the $500,000 Final at Royal Randwick on April 14 – but was never in the hunt.
She finished last of the 15 runners behind stablemate Serene Miss, and rider Damien Oliver subsequently told Racing NSW stewards he wasn’t happy with the mare’s action when put under pressure in the straight.
“Damien said Princess Posh felt sore,” Lees said. “But a post-race vet examination didn’t reveal anything, and there has been nothing wrong with her since.
“I took Princess Posh to the trials at Wyong last Monday week, and she ran a nice fourth to To Excess (an impressive first-up winner at Scone’s carnival last Saturday) over 1000m.
"On her first-up win at Newcastle, she has to be a good chance, especially against her own sex and from an inside draw.” Apprentice Jean Van Overmeire rides Princess Posh ($5 on TAB fixed odds), lessening her weight to 59kg.
Lees produces Kiwi newcomer Our Gravano (Van Overmeire, $26) for his Australian debut in the Benchmark 95 Handicap (1500m).
“We’ve had him since earlier in the year and he’s a nice horse,” Lees said. “I expect him to run well, but he will take improvement from this race without doubt. I also feel he will be better when he gets the cut out of the ground.”
Our Gravano, a five-year-old gelding, has won five of his 21 starts. All his wins have been at Ellerslie at distances ranging from 1200m to 2100m.
Lees has withdrawn Powerline from the Benchmark 89 Handicap (1200m) to rely on another Van Overmeire mount Star Reflection ($12). She has also fared well in the draw, and will jump from two in the large field of 17: “It’s a hard race, but Star Reflection always puts in,” Lees said. “She never runs a bad race.”
Lees withdrew dual-State acceptor Villa Carlotta (Rachel King, $23) from a Doomben engagement, and will confirm a Rosehill start in the 3YO Benchmark 82 Handicap (1100m) after conferring with connections tomorrow. Villa Carlotta has raced only once this year; finishing fourth over 1000m at Kembla Grange in February. “We have been hoping for a wet track, but it doesn’t look as though we are going to get it,” Lees said.
Last-start Scone winner Time Out Of Mind (Christian Reith, $51) lines up in the Benchmark 79 Handicap (1100m): “His Scone win was good, but he’s up in grade and has to maintain that winning momentum,” Lees said.