Leading Newcastle trainer Kris Lees has won the Provincial Championships Final for the third time in the race’s seven-year history, triumphing on Saturday with Cristal Breeze.
An Australian Bloodstock syndication, Cristal Breeze was identified as the right type of horse for the $500,000 race last winter and connections have trodden a patient path to get him to the race.
Lees admitted his confidence was dented when Cristal Breeze drew barrier 15 but with the scratching of pre-post favourite Great News on Friday due to a foot injury and a beautiful Hugh Bowman ride, Cristal Breeze got the job done.
The five-year-old loomed up to Pandano (+135 fav) halfway up the straight and while the favourite fought strongly, Cristal Breeze (+550) was able to get the upperhand to score narrowly with Liveinthefastlane (+2500) running on for third.
“We put him away (last winter) with this race in mind, brought him up really slowly and it was great he could produce on the day,” Lees said.
“When the barrier draw came out we were a little concerned but he got a lovely run.
“He looked the winner but gee, the favourite, he’s a tough horse. He fought back but we were able to get there in the finish.”
Lees has won the Final twice before with Danish Twist in 2016 and Serene Miss two years later.
He didn’t believe Saturday’s renewal had as much depth as past editions but was hopeful Cristal Breeze could build on the Randwick victory.
“You’ve got to be a genuine Saturday horse at least to win these races. Some years they’re probably stakes horses,” Lees said.
“This year they’re genuine Saturday horses and he can measure up in better races.”