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Kris Lees Sums Up All His Royal Randwick Chances

Ultra-consistent three-year-old TURNBERRY is on trial for a Queensland Derby start when he races at Royal Randwick on Saturday. Kris Lees will confirm a trip north if the gelding can break a run of minor placings in the Benchmark 79 Handicap (2000m).

Christian Reith has the mount on Turnberry ($12 on TAB fixed odds), who has been placed at three of his last four starts. In fact, he has never finished further back than fourth (over 1550m at Canterbury in February) in his eight starts, which have yielded two wins.

“Turnberry needs to win on Saturday to go to Brisbane for the Derby,” Lees said this afternoon. “He is racing well and hopefully, a nice draw can help him get a change of luck.”

Astute Newcastle trainer Kris Lees

Lees already has a potential candidate for the $600,000 Group 1 Queensland Derby (2200m) at Doomben on June 9 in last Saturday’s runaway Newcastle winner Banner Season.

The three-year-old will run at Ipswich on Wednesday in a $50,000 3YO Handicap (2200m) to try to clinch a start in the classic.

Turnberry resumed from a short break when a close second to Kurnel Jaxon in a Benchmark 70 Handicap (1600m) at Warwick Farm on May 16. He carried 58.5kg then against his own age and drops to 54.5kg.

Lees has eight acceptors at Randwick, but unbeaten colt Graff has gone to Brisbane overnight and will be withdrawn from the 2YO Plate (1400m). These are his thoughts on his runners:

HEAT HAZE (Aaron Bullock; 3YOF Benchmark 76 Handicap, 1400m-$10): “Very nice Fastnet Rock filly who has won two of her five starts. This is a big jump from a recent easy Taree win, but I’m sure she will be really competitive.”

SASSO CORBARO (Blake Shinn; Benchmark 80 Handicap, 1200m-$3.80): “Got way too far back when resuming at Scone and finished eighth to In Good Time in the Denise’s Joy Stakes. Won at Randwick last December, and can definitely improve here.”

BASTIA (Brenton Avdulla; Benchmark 85 Handicap, 1600m-$3.90): “This looks an ideal race for him. Good effort when runner-up to Solo Mission at Rosehill last time and should get soft run from inside gate.”

KOOL VINNIE (Bullock; Benchmark 77 Handicap, 1400m-$9): “Has been right out of luck lately, including when seventh to stablemate Serene Miss in the Provincial Championships Final at Randwick last month. Awkwardly drawn, but hoping his luck can change.”

DAL CIELO (Bullock-$10) and WELL SPRUNG (apprentice Lee Magorrian; Open Handicap, 1100m-$41): “Dal Cielo has been freshened since his third at Doomben in late March. Has to be taken on trust, but no doubt he’s capable enough if he does everything right. Well Sprung has taken improvement from his first start for us at Scone earlier this month, but might need this run also.”

Lees has two acceptors at Saturday’s provincial meeting at Gosford. Magnolia Power makes her debut in the 2YO Maiden Handicap (1000m) after a recent trial win at Wyong, and New Zealander Pierina, who made an impressive debut for the stable at the Scone carnival, is in the Class 2 Handicap (1100m).

“I’m not definite yet about running Pierina,” Lees said. “She has drawn the outside (9), so I will have a close look at the field and make up my mind.” Andrew Gibbons has been booked for both horses.

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