Former German mare Vive Marie makes her Australian debut at Royal Randwick tomorrow, and Kris Lees is expecting her to run well. The lightly-raced Australian Bloodstock five-year-old debuts in the Half Yearly Membership Handicap (1400m); her first assignment since late October.
Andrew Gibbons will ride Vive Marie ($15 on TAB fixed odds) after Lees was forced to make a late riding switch when the race was switched to a Benchmark 82 after originally being scheduled as a Benchmark 80.
“I had James McDonald booked until the weights came down 2kg and he wasn’t able to take the mount,” Lees explained. “Andrew knows the mare and rode her in one of her two trials.
“She has been in the stable for quite a while and is doing well. I would have preferred starting her off in something a bit softer, but all the same, I expect her to run well.”
Vive Marie, a daughter of Jukebox Jury, has raced only seven times in Germany for a win and two placings. Her sole victory was in a 1600m 2YO Maiden at set weights at Hannover in October, 2016.
She hasn’t raced since finishing second in a Listed race at the same track over the same distance on October 29 last year.
Gibbons was aboard Vive Marie when she finished fourth in a 900m Cessnock trial on June 27 before she comfortably beat six rivals in a 900m Newcastle trial on July 12.
At this stage, Lees is taking it step-by-step with the mare but feels she will manage up to 2000m.
On a light day for Lees – which won’t be the case on Saturdays from next week onwards as the spring approaches – his only other Randwick representative is Reach For Heaven ($6.50) in the ATC Owner Benefit Handicap (1200m). Kerrin McEvoy rides the Savabeel five-year-old, and Lees is enthusiastic about his prospects.
Reach For Heaven resumed when fourth with 60kg to Star of Monsoon in a 1200m Benchmark 80 Handicap at Rosehill Gardens on July 14.
“He ran well first-up and has taken improvement from that,” Lees said. “The form has been confirmed with both placegetters Smartedge (again a rival) and Paret winning since. Reach For Heaven has won second-up before and should get a nice run from his inside draw.”
Whilst Reach For Heaven is yet to win at Randwick, he has been placed at all three starts at the track.