Kris Lees has named Reach For Heaven as the pick of his Hawkesbury foursome in tomorrow’s $150,000 Polytrack Provincial Championships qualifier. But he has a very healthy regard for Bastia, who is beginning a new campaign and has excellent first-up credentials.
The leading Newcastle trainer has targeted the Provincial Championships series for each of the three years it has been run – finishing second with Electric Power in its inaugural year (2015) and then providing the quinella with Danish Twist and Powerline in 2016 – and has done so again.
He made an early statement by winning last week’s opening qualifier at Wyong with Just Dreaming, now the $4.60 favourite for the $500,000 Newhaven Park Country Championships Final (1400m) at Royal Randwick on April 14.
Aside from Reach For Heaven (Andrew Gibbons) and $6 chance Bastia (Aaron Bullock), Lees runs Japanese import Hallelujah Boy ($7, Noel Callow) and Clevanicc ($51, Jeff Penza) in the 1400m Hawkesbury feature.
Lees and Wyong’s Kim Waugh (Manhattan Mist) at Wyong last Saturday claimed the first two spots in the final, and market assessors are tipping a similar result tomorrow.
Reach For Heaven and Waugh’s Uptown Lad (apprentice Jean Van Overmeire) this morning were disputing favouritism at $4.40, with the former having fared best when barriers were drawn.
Interestingly, Uptown Lad ($11) is ahead of Reach For Heaven ($15) in the current market for the final, but bookmakers obviously feel tomorrow’s draw (the former will start from near the outside at 13) has evened things up.
Uptown Lad was unbeaten in three starts toward the end of last year (two of them in town) before being given a short break, and has trialled twice in preparation for a shot at the series, placing on the Beaumont track and at Gosford on both occasions last month.
Reach For Heaven, after five placings, finally broke through in town at his last start at Rosehill on February 28, ironically for Uptown Lad’s rider Van Overmeire.
“All my horses have drawn well enough, particularly Reach For Heaven (barrier 3),” Lees said. “I feel he did enough at Rosehill last time, and he’s going to get a nice run from his soft draw.
“Bastia is a good fresh horse and was very dominant when he scored first-up last campaign, though admittedly in weaker class. And he has won at Hawkesbury (in a 1300m Maiden 12 months ago) at his only start at the track.”
Lees considers Hallelujah Boy is coming up well for a new campaign in his adopted country after only two starts last year after arriving from Japan: “I’m expecting him to be hitting the line well and the same with Clevanicc, who is stepping up in class.”
Hawkesbury has five representatives in tomorrow’s 1400m qualifier, with Scott Singleton aiming to repeat last year’s success with subsequent home track Guineas winner Shazee Lee. He runs Poet’s Advocate (Shaun Guymer), who has been freshened and set for the series, and Cambage (Bobby El-Issa). Both have good records at home; Poet’s Advocate winning two from six starts and Cambage three from four.
Singleton has informed stewards that Cambage underwent a tie back operation after racing at Warwick Farm in early October. Fellow Hawkesbury trainers Garry White (Dunatun) and Jamie Thomsen (Just Two Vees) withdrew their horses from the Hawkesbury Gazette & Courier Benchmark 62 Handicap (1400m) to contest the Provincial qualifier. Mitchell Bell rides Dunatun, who has drawn the rails, and Chad Lever has the mount on Just Two Vees.
Brad Widdup is represented by Aberration (Blake Spriggs). The Lonhro four-year-old won his last two starts on the Beaumont track (January 20) and at Gosford (January 30) before being freshened for this race. He trialled at home on February 20 when fifth to Ikaba, but it was only over 760m.
The rail is in the TRUE position for tomorrow’s meeting, and the track this morning was rated a Good 4 with a penetrometer reading of 4.88. Hawkesbury received 10mm of rain earlier in the week, and 4mm of irrigation has been put on the track in the past seven days, but none in the last 24 hours.
PAUL JOICE'S SELECTIONS
RACE 1: BEAUTY KANAS, Kathmandu, Image Neat
RACE 2: DREAM BUILDER, Art Of Defence, Morning Music
RACE 3: LADY CHALFONT, Staggering, Klisstra
RACE 4: BALTIC SUCCESS, Safado, Bachelor
RACE 5: ARTEMIS ROSE, Vellor, Inanup
RACE 6: CRYSTAL BILLY, Usurp, Happy Hustler
RACE 7: CHAPELCO, Our Mantra, Base Camp
RACE 8: UPTOWN LAD, Reach For Heaven, Bastia
SPECIALS: BALTIC SUCCESS, CRYSTAL BILLY, UPTOWN LAD