By Gary Harley
Newcastle’s famous Lees family has tasted success in five Group 3 Newcastle Newmarkets and come Friday afternoon it may be six.
The time-honoured Newcastle Newmarket was first run in 1965 when the TJ Smith-trained Seacraft was successful.
It has always been a ‘good horses’ race and the best of the recent winners was the crowd favourite. Happy Clapper in 2017.
On Friday, Kris Lees will attempt to train his third successive Suez Newcastle Newmarket winner.
Newcastle’s premier trainer saddled up the former West Australian sprinter Special Reward to win easily last year with Brenton Avdulla in the saddle.
In 2019, Lees won his first Newcastle Newmarket with Princess Posh which came from a long way back to run down Savatiano.
Australian Bloodstock syndicators raced both of Lees's winners and Avdulla was also aboard Princess Posh.
Lees's late, great, Father Max won three Newcastle Newmarkets with Vain Fury (1985), Lucky Rass (1988) and Techniques (1999).
The talented Gem Song ($6 on TAB) is the Lees representative on Friday with Nash Rawiller on board and once again will be sporting the now familiar Australian Bloodstock colours.
After a 15-month break from the racetrack, Gem Song ran on nicely when a 2½ length fourth behind Masked Crusader in the Group 3 Southern Cross Stakes at Randwick on February 13.
He has a good second-up record with two wins and a second from four attempts - and has drawn well. Lees discussed Gem Song’s prospects after acceptances on Wednesday.
“Gem Song had a very long break from racing, however, I was happy with his first-up effort," Kris Lees said.
"He races well second-up and this is an ideal race for him. He will get over a further trip and I don’t expect the horse to get too far back on Friday.
"Gem Song is well up to winning the Newmarket on his old form. I will be surprised if he doesn’t run nicely. He is nominated for the Doncaster Mile, so we will see how he progresses.
"The topweight Cascadian ($4.80 favourite) is the one to beat on Friday,” Lees said.
James Cummings will saddle up Cascadian and Asiago ($9.50) in the Newmarket. Cascadian is first-up and last prep he was beaten a neck in the Group 1 Cantala at Flemington in October.
Asiago races well at Newcastle where she won the Group 3 Spring Stakes in November 2019. It is a very open Newmarket with many chances and most of Sydney’s leading jockeys have mounts in the race.
Two of Sydney’s ‘big gun’ stables have promising two-year-olds clashing in the 1400m Bella Group Services Two-Year-Old Beaumont Handicap.
Tea Leaves ($1.95 fav), an eye-catching runner-up at Wyong on February 25, will represent the Gai Waterhouse-Adrian Bott stable. The Sebring colt gave the leaders a handy start on the turn before storming home to go down by a nose. The long straight is a huge positive for him this time out.
Godolphin’s blueblood filly Gymnastics ($6.50) backs up after a slashing performance on debut at Newcastle on February 18. She got way back and rattled home to go down by half a length to the long odds-on favourite Larkspur Run. The filly could develop into an Oaks contender next season.