By Gary Harley
Kris Lees has accepted with a record nine gallopers for Saturdays $150,000 Polytrack Provincial Championships Qualifier at Newcastle Racecourse.
Newcastle’s premier trainer has already qualified Just Dreaming, Serene Miss, Tawfiq Boy and Bastia for the $500,000 Provincial Final to be run at Randwick on April 14. On Saturday Lees’s acceptors are Reach For Heaven, Bold Chance, Kool Vinnie, Whispered Secret, Hallelujah Boy, Raiden, Princess Posh, Waimea Bay (emergency), and Wallangarra (emergency).
Whispered Secret is an unlikely starter and if she is withdrawn Waimea Bay will gain a start and she will be one of the favourites.
The Newcastle Qualifier, is the last of the five, with all three placegetters progressing to the Final.
The Newcastle trainer won the Wyong and Gosford Qualifiers with Just Dreaming and Serene Miss respectively.
Lees told the Newcastle Herald that he expects all of his team to run well but he singled out his three best chances.
“I lean towards Reach For Heaven just ahead of Waimea Bay and Hallelujah Boy. I admit Reach For Heaven’s last run at Hawkesbury was disappointing however, he likes to be fresh and the three weeks between runs suits him. He was a Rosehill winner two starts back. He has drawn well and his works been good.
"Waimea Bay is a smart three-year-old filly in good form and she carries 54 kilograms. She has a tricky draw, however, with any luck she will be in the finish. Hallelujah Boy has been a work in progress since coming from Japan, however, his last run at Kembla last Saturday was very good and he is working well. He will get back but expect him to be strong late.” Lees said.
The 14-time Group 1 winning trainer had eight Provincial Championships Finalists in 2016 and he won the race with Danish Twist.
Local trainer Ben Smith, fresh from his first Group 1 winner with In Her Time last Saturday, will run the promising two-year-old filly El Dorado Dreaming in the 1200m two-year-old Maiden Plate. She was poleaxed at the start when a ‘good thing’ beaten on debut at Tamworth in October.
The filly went for a spell and following a Gosford trial win on February 28, she finished strongly for a close fourth at Warwick Farm on March 14. The longer trip on Saturday is ideal.
Paul Perry’s three-year-old Nothing Too hard is ready to break his ‘duck’ when he lines up in the 1860m Maiden Plate at Newcastle. The gelding has raced okay in much stronger races in the spring.
Perry sent him to Melbourne where he finished midfield in the Listed Geelong Classic and he was six lengths away in the Group 1 Victorian Debry in November. Nothing Too Hards’ two recent starts have been creditable and Victorian jockey Noel Callow who has ridden 15 Group 1 winners has the mount.
Newcastle Jockey Club is supporting the Buy A Bale charity at Saturday's meeting. It’s free entry with gold coin donations to the charity. It’s a family day with free kids activities including the Easter bunny, petting zoo, jumping castle, face painting, mechanical bucking bull, virtual reality horse racing and a great line up of live country music.