She is not in any of the feature races at Royal Randwick on Saturday – but Sugar Bella is definitely one of the most interesting runners at the Villiers Stakes meeting.
One of Kris Lees’ newest acquisitions, Sugar Bella created a big impression at her debut for the stable when an impressive first-up winner at the Canterbury night fixture on December 1.
Now she steps up in class and to a Saturday meeting in town, and her trainer is looking forward to the challenge in the Benchmark 84 Handicap (1200m).
Sugar Bella, when initially prepared at Goulburn, won two of her first three starts on that track as a two-year-old toward the end of the 2015-16 season before being sidelined through injury. The now Not A Single Doubt four-year-old mare romped away from her own sex to win a Benchmark 67 Handicap (1100m) by almost three lengths a fortnight ago.
“It’s a decent rise in class to a Saturday race in town, but Sugar Bella has a handy weight drop (4.5kg) to help counter that,” Lees said.
“She is promising and has trained on strongly since the Canterbury race. I’d say she is probably the pick of my Randwick runners.”
Kerrin McEvoy partners Sugar Bella, who has only 53kg, whilst the mare’s recent winning rider Brenton Avdulla goes on to stablemate Feelin The Love. With the hot weather, Lees isn’t expecting the latter to beat Sugar Bella home.
“Feelin The Love is definitely better on wet ground, and that doesn’t look likely on Saturday,” he said.
Lees also runs Olympic Academy (1600m Benchmark 84 Handicap), Zestful (1200m Listed Razor Sharp Quality) and Powerline (1400m Benchmark 82 Handicap). Senior jockey Christian Reith rides Zestful, and apprentices Jean Van Overmeire and Rachel King ride Olympic Academy and Powerline respectively.
“Zestful ran well last start after returning from Melbourne, and is quite capable on her day,” Lees said.
“Powerline is going well, having been placed at both runs since a long break. He is very consistent and always puts himself in the race.
“Olympic Academy is back after a freshen-up and has won at the 1600m. He is the type of horse you can never overlook.”
Lees produced one of his best training triumphs to win last year’s Villiers (1600m) with roughie Sense Of Occasion, who subsequently was both placed and won in Group 1 company. He also brought off another great result to get eight-year-old import Singing to win his first Australian race at Doomben last Saturday, after injuries had seriously interrupted his career.
“Singing pulled up well, and I’ve brought him home,” Lees said. “We’ve got a couple of options with him. Weather obviously will have the final say because Singing appreciates wet tracks. But he could run in either the Summer Cup at Randwick on Boxing Day or go back to Queensland for the Shoot Out Quality (2200m) at Doomben on December 30.”
The 2000m Summer Cup is a Group 3 event and carries a $150,000 purse.