Trainer Kris Lees has shown his hand with High Opinion by opting to tackle Saturday company at Royal Randwick tomorrow. Lees could have taken an easier course by running him in a Benchmark 74 Handicap (1900m) at tonight’s Canterbury Park meeting, but has chosen a stronger Benchmark 84 Handicap (2000m).
“High Opinion is all the better for three runs since a long break, and the Randwick race is a nice target,” Lees said this morning. “He has 5kg less than what he would have carried at Canterbury, and I’m expecting him to run really well.”
High Opinion, a former country gelding who was runner-up to Tom Melbourne in the 2016 Listed Albury Cup (2000m) on a heavy track, has been placed at his last two starts at Canterbury, where he broke through for Lees in a 1900m Benchmark 78 Handicap in November that same year.
Tim Clark rode him then, and is reunited with him tomorrow after partnering him at his first two starts this preparation. Jason Collett had the mount when High Opinion hit the line strongly for third (with 59.5kg) to Beijing Board in a Benchmark 73 Handicap (1900m) at Canterbury on January 5.
Lees also runs Olympic Academy (apprentice Jean Van Overmeire) in the same race. Olympic Academy loomed up strongly last Saturday when sixth to Emperor’s Way in a Benchmark 82 Handicap (1800m) at Randwick. He had 59.5kg then and drops 4.5kg tomorrow.
“You can never rule him out especially if he gets the right run, and he has a soft draw this time,” Lees said.
Lees takes unraced Ruling Symbol (Tye Angland) to town for his debut in the 2YO Plate (1000m), and has decided to put blinkers on him: “I’ve always had a good opinion of him; I took him to Sydney for the early trials at Canterbury last September,” he said.
“He has come back in good order. This is a pretty hot race, but he has drawn well and he wore blinkers when he trialled strongly on the Beaumont track earlier this month. The blinkers certainly helped him focus better.” Ruling Symbol won that 800m trial on January 5 by five and a half lengths.
Lees has booked apprentice Van Overmeire for Guard Of Honour in the Benchmark 85 Handicap (1200m), and has warned punters not to sell him short. Since being gelded, Guard Of Honour scored tenaciously over 1000m at the Muswellbrook Cup meeting on December 8, and then ran fifth with the same weight (60.5kg) to Burradoo over the same distance at Randwick on January 6.
Guard Of Honour was beaten less than two lengths, and with Van Overmeire’s claim, now meets his conqueror 5kg better: “The claim certainly helps, and I feel so will the 1200m,” Lees said. “If he can roll along up on the speed, he is definitely capable of taking some beating.”
Lees has one runner, Nationality (1150m Maiden Handicap), at home tomorrow on the Beaumont track. The three-year-old half-brother (by Commands) to his former star Samantha Miss (by Redoute’s Choice) has been gelded since his only run when eighth to the unbeaten D’Argento (also resuming at Randwick tomorrow) in a 2YO Maiden (1200m) at Newcastle on July 15 last year, when a $5 chance.
Nationality has trialled twice preparing for his resumption; finishing third both times over 800m at Gosford on December 19 and again over the same distance on the Beaumont track on January 5: “He has come back in really good order, and should run well, “ Lees said.
Sunday’s Scone meeting has been switched to Wyong because of forecast high temperatures, and Lees has three representatives. He has unraced pair Heredero (Aaron Bullock) and Sunreel (Andrew Gibbons) in the 2YO Handicap (1100m), and Tawfiq Boy (Gibbons) in the Class 3 Handicap (1100m).
Heredero, a Lope De Vega gelding, finished a distant second to stablemate Ruling Symbol in a 800m trial on the Beaumont track on January 5, whilst Dundeel filly Sunreel has won both her trials; the latest also at that Beaumont session.
Like Sunreel, Tawfiq Boy carries the same Australian Bloodstock colours as yesterday’s impressive Gosford Gold Cup winner Singing. Tawfiq Boy underwent a knee operation to remove a bone chip, sustained when a close second to Bolero King in a Class 2 Handicap (1100m) at Gosford on June 16 last year.
He has trialled twice this time in; the latest when second to the ill-fated Lomazzo over 900m on the Beaumont track on January 5. Tawfiq Boy has been a model of consistency, winning two of his nine starts and being placed on five occasions.