Kris Lees is favoured to finally break his Group 3 Newcastle Gold Cup hoodoo on Friday but the Novocastrian has been in this position before and he knows it’s anything but a forgone conclusion.
Lees, the son of champion trainer Max Lees, has been the dominant force of Newcastle racing for many years but a victory in his home feature has eluded him.
He is determined to break that drought and has continued to saddle up strong teams in the race in recent times in an effort to get the job done.
Last year Lees had five runners in the race but fell narrowly short of a maiden success when Hush Writer held off the Lees pair of Attention Run and Our Candidate, which started favourite.
This time around Lees will saddle up another strong team of four in the 2300m feature, including the classy $2.30 favourite Mugatoo.
Kerrin McEvoy rides Mugatoo again in the Newcastle Gold Cup. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
“I have thought that ‘this was the year’ before but Mugatoo has certainly got a great chance and should run very well,” Lees said.
“He has come through his win the other day really well and should improve.
“He is jumping up to the 2300m so we have kept him up to the mark since then and he looks in very good order.”
Mugatoo was a winner of the Group 3 Premier’s Cup last start and will carry the topweight in his latest stakes assignment.
Lees wasn’t rapt with the 59kg impost handed to Mugatoo by the handicappers with stablemate Mustajeer weighted out of the race when he was given 61kg. Mustajeer will line up in the Group 3 Kingston Town Classic (2000m) at Randwick on Saturday.
Both horses are two of Lees’ main contenders for the Group 1 The Metropolitan next month.
Mugatoo also holds a nomination for the Epsom Handicap but Lees plans to narrow his focus on the 2400m feature on the same day after the Newcastle Cup.
Mugatoo is the horse to beat in the Newcastle Gold Cup. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
“By running him here that will rule out the Epsom so we are thinking it will be a Metropolitan with him now and this will give us a strong indication of where we’re at,” Lees said.
Mugatoo’s stablemates will bring vastly different form lines into the feature.
Aliferous is on the short back up after finishing third in a 2030m race at Doomben last weekend.
Attention Run was fifth in the Listed Wyong Gold Cup (2100m) at her last start on September 4 while Big Duke last contested the Premier’s Cup Prelude back on August 15.
“Attention Run is ticking over well after running a really gallant second last year but she has drawn awkwardly again,” Lees said. “She is going to need a bit of luck from barrier 16.
“Big Duke is going terrific and he might appreciate this Newcastle track provided it has enough give in it.
Kris Lees will have four runners in the Newcastle Gold Cup. Picture: Aaron FrancisSource:News Corp Australia
“Aliferous had her chance the other day in Brisbane and this is a big jump in grade but she is a mare that reacts well on a quick turnaround.”
Kerrin McEvoy rides Mugatoo, Regan Bayliss is on Aliferous, Big Duke will be ridden by Jason Collett and Andrew Gibbons steers Attention Run.
Lees will also have runners in the other feature races, the Australian Bloodstock Cameron Handicap and Yarraman Park Tibbie Stakes.
Special Reward, Miss Fabulass, Le Romain and Chief Ironside are all acceptors in the Cameron Handicap with latter two horses also accepting in the Group 3 Bill Richie Handicap in Sydney.
Lees will make a decision later in the week which way he will head.
Game Of Thorns, Wandabaa and Stella Sea Sun are his Tibbie Stakes runners with Regimental Band the first emergency.
Originally published asLees has elusive Gold Cup win in crosshairs
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