Veteran stayer Doukhan ($3.50 on TAB fixed odds) has an important gear change for his attempt to snare a 3200m victory at Royal Randwick on Saturday. Kris Lees has decided to race the nine-year-old minus winkers in the Stayer's Cup – his third attempt at the Melbourne Cup distance in less than two months.
“He got his head on the side in the straight in the Andrew Ramsden Stakes at Flemington last start, otherwise he would have been in the finish,” Lees said. “With these older horses, sometimes you have to change their gear around.
“I’m happy with Doukhan, and feel he will run really well. He relishes rain-affected ground and has the right weight (53kg) to be very competitive.”
Lees has booked apprentice Jean Van Overmeire for the Stayer's Cup even though apprentices cannot claim.
Van Overmeire has an excellent record on the gelding, winning twice – over 2400m and 2700m in Sydney last spring – from only three rides on him.
Doukhan, who was placed over 3000m in France carrying a hefty impost before coming to Australia, has not been disgraced at his recent 3200m assignments. He was a late-closing seventh in the Sydney Cup at Randwick on April 14 and then fifth in the Andrew Ramsden at Flemington on May 19.
Lees also has made a gear change on another import Hallelujah Boy (Jason Collett, $4.80), striving for an Australian breakthrough in the Benchmark 87 Handicap (2000m).
Blinkers are coming off and a nose roll is going on the former Japanese gelding, who has not finished further back than fifth in his last five runs; and has been placed at his last two in town: “Hallelujah Boy is racing honestly, and getting close to a win,” Lees said.
Jeff Penza, who won the Newcastle Provincial Championships Qualifier in March for Lees on Princess Posh, rides Dal Cielo ($10) in the $150,000 Listed June Stakes (1100m): “We’ve had a bit of luck with Jeff, and I think there is good improvement in this horse on his recent third at Randwick,” Lees said.
At his first start since March (when placed over 1050m at Doomben), Dal Cielo wasn’t far from Dreamforce and I Thought so in the At Sea Handicap (1100m) on May 26, and drops 2.5kg.
Lees has dual representatives in both the Benchmark 90 Handicap (1600m) and Benchmark 85 Handicap (1200m). Our Gravano (Aaron Bullock, $9) and Bastia (Christian Reith, $4) run in the former, and Powerline (Bullock, $12) and Star Reflection (Van Overmeire, $7.50) contest the latter.
Our Gravano could not secure clear running when a luckless fifth over 1500m at Rosehill Gardens last Saturday, whilst Bastia returned to the winning list over this course and distance on May 26.
“Our Gravano had a soft run last week, so there should be no problem with him backing up, and Bastia puts himself on the speed and makes his own luck,” Lees said. “I’ve probably got a slight leaning toward Bastia. Powerline and Star Reflection both have chances in their race.”