Gary Harley – Herald – 02.03.24

Kris Lees’ richly talented four-year-old Tavi Time, second favourite to win the $1 million Polytrack Provincial-Midway Championship Final at Randwick on April 13 kicks off his campaign in the Newcastle Qualifier on Saturday. The 1400m Newcastle Qualifier has attracted twelve acceptors with Tavi Time and Brad Widdup’s mare Ausbred Flirt the class competitors. Under the weight scale Tavi Time with 59kg must concede two kilograms to Ausbred Flirt, but he is very talented.

Tavi Time had one start for the late Gwenda Markwell in July 2022 before joining the Lees stable where he has had seven starts for five wins and a second. The son of leading Kiwi sire Tavistock has not raced since a demoralizing 6.58 lengths win in the Mudgee Cup (1600m) on December 1. Aaron Bullock rode him at Mudgee and he has the mount on Saturday. Tavi Time has only had one trial this preparation and that was at Wyong on January 31 when Dylan Gibbons never let him off the bit at the tail of the field. Lees is optimistic concerning the gelding’s prospects on Saturday and believes the 1400 metres is the right trip first up, although he will need further later in this preparation.

“The horse has come on well since his short break and I have kept him fresh for the 1400m. Tavi Time was outstanding last preparation and I believe he is a very good horse but will need 1600m or more as he gets fitter. He had an exhibition gallop at Newcastle two weeks back but 1400m is as short as he wants first up. Tavi Time is ready to win first up, he will run well” Lees said.

The Newcastle trainer has dominated the Provincial & Provincial-Midway series as it is now known. There has been nine series and Lees has won the Final on five occasions.

Ausbred Flirt has raced in better company than Tavi Time and is a Newcastle winner. In the Spring the mare was a close second in the Group 3 Angst at Randwick and was only 1.54 lengths from Espiona in the $2 million Invitation at Randwick. She won a recent Rosehill trial with Saturdays jockey Alysha Collett in the saddle.

Local sprinter Nosey Parker has won four with two seconds from seven starts on the home track and he blitzed an inferior field here on February 17. The first two placegetters progress to the Final.

The ultra consistent Wymark, bred on stout staying lines steps up to the 1850 metre trip in the Lovey’s Grocers IGA Midway Class 1 & Maiden Plate, and with the 3-kilogram allowance for Zac Wadick he is beautifully weighted under the set weights. The son of Savabeel has had three starts at Newcastle for a last start win, an unlucky second and a third. His last start on February 17, Wymark raced at the leader’s heels and only surged clear in the last 50 metres of the ‘mile’ to win running away. The three-year-old has drawn nicely and won’t be far off the speed.

Hellbent On You who put the writing on the wall with a close second on this track recently should atone in the Bell River Thoroughbreds Maiden Handicap (1300m). The filly came out of the barriers three lengths behind the field on this track on February 3. She was erratic in the early stages and was last in to the straight. She unwound down the outside to miss by a nose. The performance was outstanding.

Tender Streak, runner up in both Newcastle starts will be hard to beat in the Settlers Arms Dungog Cup Class 1 Handicap (1300m). A Gosford maiden winner in August, the Zoustar filly was never comfortable after a slow start first up at Hawkesbury on February 13 and finished near last. She had very good form before a spell and has a positive barrier on Saturday.