By Ray Hickson
Trainer Kris Lees can’t look at Saturday’s $3m The Star Doncaster Mile (1600m) in any other way than as a prime opportunity for popular galloper Mugatoo to claim an overdue Group 1 win.
And there’s every chance the six-year-old will back up in the carnival’s flagship race, the $4m Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) on April 17, but Lees is adamant Mugatoo is so well placed that the Doncaster has to come first.
Mugatoo will carry 56kg, after weights were raised 0.5kg on acceptances, drew ideally in barrier four and comes into the race fresh with four weeks since his All Star Mile win.
“He’s certainly in well, with the weights released before the All Star Mile, and with (the meeting) going back a week it gives us the opportunity to possibly run in both,’’ Lees said.
“With the two horses (Addeybb and Verry Elleegant) that are above him in the market, and with Sir Dragonet back in form, I have no doubt the Queen Elizabeth is the stronger of the two races.
“The Doncaster is one of the great races on the Sydney calendar, I’m certainly looking forward to it.”
Mugatoo completed his preparation for the Doncaster with a gallop at Newcastle on Tuesday and Lees said he couldn’t have asked for a smoother build up.
He’s unbeaten in two starts at a mile and Hugh Bowman, who won the race in 2016 on Winx, boasts two wins from as many rides on the horse.
“I’m pretty content with where he’s at,’’ he said.
“It’s a big field and you always like to draw favourably.
“I think 2000m is the perfect trip for him but in a big field of milers with any tempo it’s within his reach.”
When Mugatoo arrived at Lees’ stable in the spring of 2019 he couldn’t have predicted the gelding would rise to the top level in the space of a preparation.
He contested his first Group 1 in last year’s Tancred Stakes and by the end of that spring had a close second in the Metropolitan and fourth in a Cox Plate on his Group 1 CV and it was then Lees knew the gelding was top shelf.
“I treat them all as though they have to earn their way through so we try to place them soft to start with wherever we can,’’ he said.
“But he showed a bit from day one. We went to his first start confident he’d run very well mindful that the expectation was a mile would be too short for him.
“I think his Cox Plate run off the back of getting beaten in the Metrop convinced us he’d run well fresh at a mile in the right race.”
Unfortunately stablemate Gem Song won't be taking his place in the Star Doncaster, the five-year-old has been spelled by Lees after he was found to be lame following work on Thursday morning.
Mugatoo, the @tabcomau favourite for @TheStarSydney Doncaster Mile with @HugeBowman in the saddle, works with @Leesracing stablemates Enchanted Heart and Continuation at @newcastleraces_ on Tuesday. @7horseracing @ausbloodstock2 pic.twitter.com/o0FCvVS9bi
— Racing NSW (@racing_nsw) March 30, 2021