It's Scone’s metropolitan standard two-day carnival, and Kris Lees will have a stack of runners.
And he’s hoping to celebrate his induction earlier in the week into the Newcastle and Hunter Racing Hall of Fame by winning his first Scone Cup today.
Lees will be represented by pre-post favorite Take It Intern (Kerrin McEvoy, $2.80 on TAB fixed odds) in the $180,000 Cup (1600m) – the headline act of his six runners on the opening day.
And he has a further 14 horses lining up on Saturday, with multiple representatives in many races.
With 181 winners this season (only 11 short of last season’s benchmark) and a record $11.7 million prizemoney already in the kitty, Lees is naturally keen to add to that over the two big days at Scone.
Take It Intern, a recent addition to his team, made his debut for the stable when a close fourth to Mahalangur in a Benchmark 100 Handicap (1400m) at Royal Randwick on April 20.
A Caulfield 1600m winner last October, the Rip Van Winkle five-year-old is primed for his Scone Cup assault.
“He has been well found in the market and is going nicely,” Lees said. “Provided he can have a bit of luck from an awkward draw, I’m sure he will make his presence felt.”
Take It Intern’s performance will determine whether he proceeds to Brisbane for the winter carnival, with his trainer not yet prepared to commit him to a Doomben Cup (2000m) start on Saturday week.
Lees’s other Scone runners tomorrow are Ice Shelf (1000m Maiden Handicap, $5.50), Occupy (1600m Class 1 Handicap, $9.50), Power Lift (1100m Class 1 Handicap, $15), Black And Tan (1300m Class 2 Handicap, $19) and I Am Awesome (1400m Noel Leckie Country Cup, $10).
McEvoy rides Ice Shelf, Power Lift and I Am Awesome, stable apprentice Sam Clenton partners Occupy and fellow apprentice Robbie Dolan has the Black And Tan mount.
Lees has put blinkers on first starter Ice Shelf, whom he expects to run well.
“He is a nice horse who has trialled well,” he said. “I expect him to be very competitive. The same with Occupy and Power Lift.
“Occupy is better for one run back and might want a bit further, but definitely has a chance on his first-up effort.
“Power Lift was good in winning on debut at Wyong, and has taken improvement from that run.
“Black And Tan is a member of Joe O’Neill’s Prime Thoroughbreds team and trialled okay at Gosford recently. She has won first-up before and is not without a chance.
“I Am Awesome finds a strong race but has the advantage of an inside draw and is not to be overlooked.”
Lees’s Saturday runners are:-
“We’ll ride Reginae more conservatively in the Guineas,” Lees said. "She can definitely improve and is the pick of my three in that race.
“High Opinion was terrific in finishing second in the Wagga Cup last Friday, and has handled the trip well. Sam takes 2kg off, and I feel he has a great chance of returning to the winning list.
“Regimental Band and Jack’s Bar are place chances, and Evalina is the pick of our pair in the Denise’s Joy. I scratched Princess Posh from the Luskin Star Stakes (1300m) to run in the Dark Jewel, and she is always a chance against her own sex.
“Asharani could easily win without surprising. I’m looking forward to getting Guard Of Honour on a good track in the Ortensia. He is nicely drawn and at his best is definitely capable of winning.”