DOMINANT Newcastle trainer Kris Lees could saddle up the favourite in all three group 3 features at his hometown Cup meeting on Friday, including his shortest-priced ever runner in the main event.
But Lees knows better than anyone that markets mean very little, especially when it comes to winning the Newcastle Gold Cup (2300m).
The Lees stable has won all group features at Newcastle except for the Cup, where he has four runners on Friday including $2.20 TAB Fixed Odds favourite Mugatoo. Big Duke ($23), Attention Run ($18) and Aliferous ($16) also represent Lees and owners Australian Bloodstock.
The combination were second and third with Attention Run and $2.90 favourite Our Candidate last year.
Lees believed Mugatoo could be the shortest-priced hope he's had in the race, but he was wary of the six-year-old's topweight of 59 kilograms, which was 3kg more than 2019 winner Hush Writer.
Mugatoo, which has gate seven with Kerrin McEvoy aboard, has won five of seven starts since coming to Australia and was a last-start winner of the group 3 Premiers Cup over 1900m.
Although a $4.50 favourite for the group 1 Metropolitan (2400m) in two weeks, Mugatoo is yet to win beyond 2000m in Australia.
"He's a very good horse, with upside," Lees said.
"I don't get too involved with markets, but I think he's well under the price he should be. But he's the class horse in the race with a lot of upside, but he's got a good horse's weight as well."
Lees admitted it would be nice to break his duck in the race and avoid the inevitable question of "Is this the year?" every Newcastle Cup week.
"It would be," he laughed. "But what will be, will be.
"We were second and third last year and I've had a few other seconds as well. I'm not sure, but I think I've had six placings all up.
"I don't carried away with it, but it would be good to win."
Attention Run put in a bold performance last year on the speed to finish second but has to again overcome a wide draw.
"She had a similar run last year and ran really well," he said. "I don't know if she likes being cluttered up anyway.
"Providing she doesn't do it really tough in the early stages, she'll be thereabouts.
"Aliferous seems really well so we're happy to give her the opportunity."
Lees also has equal favourites Special Reward ($3.50) and Wandabaa ($6) in the group 3 Cameron Handicap (1500m) and Tibbie Stakes (1400m) respectively on the program and he hoped it was a promising sign.
"The horses don't know that, so hopefully the punters are good judges," he said.
Special Reward will be one of three likely runners from the Lees stable in the Cameron. He said Chief Ironside ($26) would probably run at Newcastle but Le Romain will head to the Bill Ritchie Handicap at Randwick on Saturday. Miss Fabulass ($12) was his other Cameron hope.
"[Special Reward] should get a nice run up on speed and if he handles the six-day turnaround, I think he will be most effective there," he said.
"We're going to ride [Miss Fabulass] a bit conservative, ride her to hit the line and we'll know where she's at. She'll run well."
Wandabaa was his best hope in an open Tibbie Stakes also featuring stablemates Game Of Thorns ($26), Regimental Band ($23) and Stella Sea Sun ($26).
"She's such a consistent mare, she puts herself in the right spot and she'll be hard to beat," he said of Wandabaa.
Game Of Thorns was yet to have a jockey appointed on Thursday but Lees said she would run and could produce first-up. Regimental Band and Stella Sea Sun were "rough chances".
Lees, meanwhile, hoped Newcastle Racecourse would be well watered for the Cup, given the warm and windy conditions this week.
"I'd be extremely disappointed if it's a Good 3," he said. "I just think any stayers these days want a 3."
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