PROMISING: Gold Epona, left, will race at Randwick tomorrow. Picture: Jenny EvansKRIS Lees could have two chances of adding to his impressive Oaks record after racing at Randwick tomorrow.
Gold Epona and Express Power will represent Lees in the $125,000 group 3 Adrian Knox Stakes over 2000 metres.
The race for the promising staying three-year-old fillies is the stepping stone to the group 1 $550,000 Australian Oaks (2400m) on April 20.
Lees has already tasted Oaks success with Samantha Miss in the VRC version and Vitesse Dane in the Queensland race.
Lees has also gone close with Flora Danica, which ran second to Serenade Rose in both the VRC and AJC Oaks.
“I am really pleased with both fillies and Saturday is their moment of truth to see if they are up to Oaks class,” Lees said. “This is the second level of staying filly so far.
“Realistically a filly would need to win or be very competitive in this group 3 race to warrant going to the Oaks. Gold Epona has the stronger form line but Express Power is getting better with every run, she is on the way up.”
Lees will also be hoping that he has a true Sydney Cup hope emerge today. His imported stayer Hathras is getting ready for the 3200m group 1 Sydney Cup, which is worth $500,000 and will be run on April 27.
Hathras runs in the $175,000 group 2 Chairman’s Handicap over 2600m tomorrow.
He had a good effort when beaten just 2.4 lengths in the group 1 BMW over 2400m at Rosehill last Saturday.
“His effort last week was great and he has licked the feed bin out since,” Lees said.
“He never backed up in Europe, which is not their go, but if ever a horse gives me the indication he will cope with week-to-week racing, then it is Hathras.
■ Newcastle trainer Darren Smith is not worried as Atomic Force gets set to chase mighty mare Black Caviar.
“We will be seeing her backside like the rest of them,” Smith said.
“But there is a million dollars on offer and you just have to take a crack at a race like this – Black Caviar or no Black Caviar, stranger things have happened.”
■ Welkom Gold, which was rushed to the Newcastle Equine Centre last Saturday with a high temperature, left hospital yesterday.
“He will be given a couple of quiet weeks in a paddock before any decision about the future is made,” Darren Smith said.
“He just went downhill so quick, one moment he is getting ready to go to the races and the next I had to get him to hospital as quickly as possible.”
■ It did not take long for the new board of directors at the Newcastle Jockey Club to suffer a casualty.
The board met for the first time last week but only six were in attendance. It seems one member had another business meeting to attend.
■ A link to Newcastle’s great racing and business heritage has been lost with the death of Ron Tange.
Tange died aged 89 this week and will be remembered for his role as a successful businessman and for his love of racing through his long career as a trainer. He ran Newcastle Abattoirs for 20 years and his meat businesses employed more than 400 locals and exported to 59 countries around the world.
Tange took up training on the advice of his wife Mary as a hobby and had many good horses.
Among them was Navaho Brave, which won the group 3 Tramway handicap in 1974 at Randwick.
There is another story regarding Navaho Brave that might make old-time Newcastle punters still cringe.
Tange had entered Navaho Brave for a Sydney Saturday meeting and was confident.
They say punters from the area headed to the big smoke in large numbers with plenty of cold hard cash to back Navaho Brave.
They got to racing headquarters ready to bet – but the horse never made it.
The float carrying Navaho Brave caught on fire and the horses had to be rushed off the truck.
The gallopers were still stranded on the roadside when the race was run and won.
■ Greg Ryan can top off a memorable week today.
Ryan will be out to win the $55,000 Orange Gold Cup over 1600m on Ideal Position.
In his long and illustrious riding career star country jockey Ryan has had some big days. However Tuesday’s meeting at Tamworth would be hard to top.
He had a winning double in Akamas and Double Halo.
Those victories bought up 100 wins for the season and 3000 career successes for Ryan.
Ryan, 47, was a late starter in racing having been a motor mechanic for eight years.
He switched to a different type of horse power when 26 and has been a prolific winner in the bush ever since.
■ Group 1 Doomben Cup winner Mawingo is to be switched to Singapore.
The former German galloper will be trained by Michael Freedman in Singapore.
Mawingo was bought Down Under by Newcastle syndicators Australian Bloodstock.
“There are some nice races for him over there including the Singapore Cup,” Australian Bloodstock principal Jamie Lovett said.
■ Long-serving Newcastle Jockey Club employee Di Wade is taking on a new role with the club.
“Di Wade has accepted a new appointment with the NJC as Racing Administration Manager,” NJC chief executive officer Cameron Williams said.
Wade joined the NJC in 1999.
■ Scone mare Ortensia, which has won group 1 races around the world, will attempt to win her own race next start.
Trainer Paul Messara said he bypassed the T.J. Smith Stakes at Randwick tomorrow with Ortensia because of a minor worry.
He hopes to have her right for the listed $140,000 Quality Ortensia Stakes over 1100m on Saturday May 18 over the Scone Cup two-day carnival.
Messara said that he would then take Ortensia to Brisbane for the winter carnival where she will try to add to her group 1 wins in Australia, Dubai and England.
■ Owner David Walker didn’t have a decision on where he will be racing tomorrow despite having runners at Randwick and Newcastle.
Walker has Madame Fly in the Kindergarten Stakes at Randwick and his Quirindi Cup winner Sandrio runs over 1200m at Newcastle.
“David wanted Madame Fly to run so he could get the tickets so all his mates could watch Black Caviar,” trainer Robert “Pud” Davies said.
“The only trouble with that plan was that his filly is in the first and the great mare is in the last.
“I can only hope David and his friends are true stayers, as it will be a long day.”
Davies said that Sandrio was being aimed at the Tamworth and Gunnedah Cups.
■ Champion Cessnock jockey Robert Thompson will ride at Rockhampton tomorrow in a feature event for two-year-olds.