Newcastle trainer Kris Lees had a memorable day at Randwick on Monday, leading in a winning Group 3 treble.
He opened his account in The Chi-X Southern Cross Stakes (1200 metres) with the gallant Le Romain ($4.20), ridden by Hugh Bowman.
The gelding, resuming from a spell, lumped 61kg to score by a short half-head from Scone galloper Big Money, trained by Rod Northam and ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Robert Thompson.
Le Romain has been a consistent galloper for Lees and connections, having won five of his 14 starts (including the Group 1 Cantala Stakes last spring) and placing in seven others.
Lees made it a running double when Invincible Gem, ridden by Brenton Avdulla, scored a stylish win in the Trainer Connections Spring Stakes (1600m) for three-year-olds.
The filly, who started the $3.80 favourite, won by 3¾ lengths and looks to have a bright future.
Zestful completed Lees’s treble when she took out the Robrick Lodge Triscay Stakes (1200m) for mares with Jason Collett in the saddle.
Goodie gets up
In a thrilling finish, Monday’s edition of the TAB Highway Handicap series saw the Darryl Roberts-trained Bills a Goodie ($10), ridden by apprentice Andrew Adkins, defeat $3.80 favourite Medieval by a half-head, with a short half-head to third-placed Allzin.
On paper, Perfect Dare looked a weights certainty in the $150,000 Northern Rivers Racing Association Championship Qualifier (1400m) at Grafton on Monday and that was exactly how it turned out.
The four-year-old gelding and $2 favourite, trained at Murwillumbah by Matthew Dunn and ridden by leading Brisbane jockey Jim Byrne, demolished his rivals, romping away to score by 5¼ lengths.
Second place went to Free Standing, trained at Coffs Harbour by Cathleen Rode. Both horses are now qualified for the Country Championships Final, to run at Randwick on April 1.
Judging by Monday’s performance, Perfect Dare is going to take a power of beating.
Local-boy-made-good Tim Martin had cause to celebrate after winning last Friday’s Elders Walcha Cup (1440m) with $2.60 favourite Hunter Jack.
It was a particularly satisfying result for the Rosehill trainer, who comes from Walcha.
“That’s where I started training and that’s my home town. I’ve never won the cup and I’ve won every cup around bar that,” he told media.
Jockey Greg Ryan settled Hunter Jack off the pace before making his move approaching the turn.
In the straight, Ryan gave the gelding a couple of slaps to get his mind on the job. The favourite responded well, drawing away under hands-and-heels riding.
Trainers on front foot
Gosford trainers, who late last year had their eviction notices revoked following a last-minute intervention by Racing NSW CEO Peter V’landys, are finally feeling more confident about their futures.
The trainers’ confidence stems from the surge in demand for properties west of Sydney, which has seen developers eyeing off racing stables in the Warwick Farm area.
These cashed-up developers are expected to make some enticing offers to trainers in the area, and the Australian Turf Club has already indicated it will not be building any new stables on the Warwick Farm racecourse.
Any trainers selling up, therefore, will have to look at relocating their business to a provincial or country area.
Already one Warwick Farm trainer has moved to Gosford and more are expected to follow.
Gosford has much to offer, as one local trainer told me.
“There’s ample room at the track to accommodate another hundred stables and associated amenities, so we could certainly take more trainers,” he said.
“The track is only an hour and a quarter drive from Sydney, making it easily accessible to Sydney racecourses, and the trip will be even quicker when new road projects are completed.
“The track has the potential to become a wonderful training facility and a real showcase for racing.
“Before that can happen though, we desperately need the Pro-Ride track replaced.
“Hopefully the board of the Gosford Entertainment Centre (formerly Gosford Race Club) and Racing NSW can reach an agreement in the near future that will see that happen.”
Former south-coast apprentice Deanne Panya has been given an extra month to recover from injuries sustained in a fall in the Widden Stakes at Randwick last month.
The extension comes courtesy of Racing NSW stewards, who suspended the apprentice for one month after she tested positive to the diuretic hydrochlorothiazide, a drug used to keep weight down.
The suspension will commence after Panya’s compo payments for the fractured collarbone she suffered have expired.
Jockey Jamie Quinnell has been disqualified from riding for 18 months after having been found guilty of using “an unapproved Bakos whip, which was modified by fixing a length of electrical cord to the flap of the whip”.
Quinnell pleaded guilty to a charge of animal cruelty and three related charges.
The incident occurred during trackwork at Port Macquarie last month.