Time is right for Lees to strike in Newmarket
TRAINER Kris Lees hasn't had a starter in a Newmarket Handicap but he's gang-tackling the Group 1 sprint at Flemington on Saturday with three leading chances - Brave Smash, In Her Time and Graff.
Lees, though, has saddled-up a winner of the famous sprint, Ruffles in 1997, for his father Max Lees.
"I've never had a Newmarket runner and now I've got three good chances," Lees said.
Lees' trio have all drawn out with Brave Smash in barrier 23, In Her Time (16) and Graff (20). The $4.00 favourite Osborne Bulls also drew wide (22), while the winner of the race for the past two years, Redkirk Warrior, has barrier 19.
Lees is hoping a horse such as speedster Eduardo (21) will ensure a good pace out wide.
"Last year they split with a big field and I'd imagine they would do the same again," he said.
Last year Brave Smash, when trained by Darren Weir, was beaten in a photo by Redkirk Warrior, and Lees suggested he's in similar form.
Before last year's Newmarket, Brave Smash won the Futurity Stakes and this year he finished a luckless seventh.
Brave Smash carried 56.5kg last year and will carry 57kg on Saturday.
Lees said the Black Caviar Lightning winner In Her Time was in terrific condition but he suggested Graff, who finished fourth in the Lightning, would be suited by the 1200m and at the weights, as he will carry 50kg.
"Graff meets her 3.5kg better and he's also getting six kilos from Brave Smash so on the weights, he's the best of my three, but the three of them are going into the race physically in great shape," he said.
Lees said star Perth jockey Willie Pike would be having his ride for him when he rides Graff but he said he couldn't be happier to have him on.
"He's the ultimate professional and he came over to ride him work last Friday," he said.
Lees is also attempting to win two Newmarkets in two days as he has two runners in the Newcastle Newmarket on Friday - Invincible Gem and Princess Posh.
NEWMARKET HCP (1200m)
Flemington, Saturday 3.15pm
1. REDKIRK WARRIOR D & B Hayes & T Dabernig L Nolen (19) 58.5kg
2. SANTA ANA LANE A Freedman B Melham (10) 58.5kg
3. BRAVE SMASH K Lees D Oliver (23) 57kg
4. OSBORNE BULLS J Cummings H Bowman (22) 56kg
5. VOODOO LAD C Maher & D Eustace - (5) 56kg
6. IN HER TIME K Lees C Brown (16) 55.5kg
7. SHOALS A Freedman M Zahra (7) 55kg
8. DOTHRAKI P & P Snowden D Lane (1) 54.5kg
9. BOOKER M Ellerton & S Zahra D Yendall (6) 53kg
10. WHISPERING BROOK S A Miller J McNeil (13) 52.5kg
11. BONS AWAY C Maher & D Eustace Ms L Meech (4) 52kg
12. CHAMPAGNE CUDDLES B Baker - (18) 52kg
13. DIVINE QUALITY R Griffiths B Mertens (2) 52kg
14. EDUARDO S Zschoke B Park (21) 52kg
15. GLENALL M, W & J Hawkes D Holland (8) 52kg
16. I'LL HAVE A BIT J McArdle B Thompson (11) 52kg
17. MISSROCK R Laing S Baster (15) 52kg
18. USAIN BOWLER J Sadler P Moloney (14) 52kg
19. ENCRYPTION J Cummings Ms R King (17) 51kg
20. GRAFF K Lees W Pike (20) 51kg
21. ZOUSAIN C Waller C Williams (12) 51kg
22. SUNLIGHT T McEvoy B Vorster (9) 50.5kg
23. LEAN MEAN MACHINE C Waller M Dee (3) 50kg