Kris Lees has stacked the bases in a concerted bid to finally crack a win in his hometown Cup at Newcastle with his team headed by race favourite Our Candidate.
The Novacastrian has confirmed he will have up to six runners in Friday’s Group Three Newcastle Cup (2300m) with only Big Duke ruled out in favour of a start in the Kingston Town Stakes (2000m) at Randwick the following day.
That still leaves Lees with a strong hand courtesy of the in-form Our Candidate, multiple stakes winner Red Cardinal, Saunter Boy, Mongolian Wolf, Attention Run and possibly veteran Doukhan.
“It’s not the be-all, end-all but it’s our local Cup and we’d love to win it,” Lees said.
Our Candidate kicked off his campaign at Gosford in April but Lees has spaced his runs and the five-year-old’s form suggests he has appreciated it, with brilliant displays to win his past two starts over 2400 metres in town.
Lees concedes Our Candidate is a deserving favourite and probably the best chance of his squad.
“Red Cardinal is the best horse in the race but he’s first-up and he’s not getting any younger,” Lees said.
“Our Candidate is short enough in the market but he’s a horse on the way up and the others are pretty much exposed.
“He’s been up a long time so one bad run and he’ll be in the paddock, but he’s shown us no signs of going over the top yet.”
The Group Three Cameron Handicap (1500m), a traditional lead-up race to next month’s Epsom Handicap at Randwick, has attracted a field of 16 with the Chris Waller-trained Kolding early favourite following his unlucky first-up fifth to Dreamforce in the Tramway Handicap.
But the race could change complexion with Kolding and stablemates Mantastic and Kaonic dual acceptors for the Bill Ritchie Handicap (1400m) at Randwick on Saturday.
Tim Clark has made the Cameron his own in recent years, winning the past three editions and he rides Group Two winner Savapinski who is lining up for her second start for Ciaron Maher and David Eustace.
“I’ve had a bit of luck in this race so hopefully I can get another one,” Clark said.
“On her best form, she’d be a chance.”
Clark partners Wyong Cup second placegetter Hush Writer in the Newcastle Cup and says the Japanese import will appreciate the drying ground at Newcastle, which was a soft 5 on Thursday.