KRIS Lees has up to 15 runners across five tracks this weekend, but Animate and The Bopper shape as the main focus for the Newcastle trainer.
Five-year-old gelding Animate contests the $1million Magic Millions Cup (1400 metres) on the Gold Coast on Saturday while around half-an-hour later, but 800-plus kilometres further south, local favourite The Bopper races in the Schweppes Handicap (1100m) at Rosehill.
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Animate is no stranger to the Magic Millions carnival, having won last year's Country Cup, and arrives following a win at Randwick on Boxing Day.
However, with the likes of group 1 winner Kementari in the field, Lees knows Australian Bloodstock-owned Animate is stepping up in class despite having targeted this event.
"He jumps a few grades, but certainly deserves a chance in better grade," Lees told the Newcastle Herald.
"And he's racing for $1million so we wanted to give him that opportunity."
Andrew Mallyon takes the ride on Animate and having won previously, four months ago at Doomben, Lees says the pair have a "good understanding".
Lees also has Always On Show racing at the Gold Coast on Saturday, taking part in the $250,000 Magic Millions Open (1800m).
The New Zealand mare, which last won at Doomben in June, will be steered by Mallyon as well.
Down in Sydney and The Bopper leads a charge of three for Lees, with I Say Hello and Zetarita bookending the metropolitan meeting.
Four-year-old gelding The Bopper, with four wins from eight career starts including last up at Randwick a month ago, was the short-price favourite at $1.90 on TAB fixed odds on Friday.
"I Say Hello should run well in the first but The Bopper is probably our best chance," Lees said.
"He's done a good job, returned in good order and if he maintains that form it will put him right in the race."
The Bopper has a strong following and large ownership group. This includes Gale Mooney, wife of the The Bopper's namesake - a well-known police detective and friend of the Lees family John Mooney, who died in 2018. She met the horse for the first time this week.
Lees didn't reveal any long-term plans for The Bopper, an Inglis Challenge winner at Scone in 2020, saying "we'll take him along steady and try to place him right".
Elsewhere on Saturday and Wild Sheila represents the Novocastrian at Kembla Grange while Bailey Wheeler takes four of Lees' seven bookings at Tuncurry.
Sunday sees Irish Thunder and Apache Blue aim up at Sunshine Coast.
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