Gary Harley – RNSW – March 2022


The Newcastle Jockey Club is reviewing the plan the club released in 2017 which included a 520-box stable complex where the now former race day stalls are located at Newcastle Racecourse. The current race day stalls were built for around $4 million last year at the opposite end of the racecourse to where the stalls originally stood.

The NJC paid for the current race day stalls from its own funds. The NJC is reviewing the original plan after meeting with Newcastle trainers. NJC chief executive Duane Dowell said the club was looking at reducing the number of boxes to make room for an elevated observation area for trainers and owners, designated tie-up stalls to service the morning trackwork and barrier trials and a marshalling area to accommodate more efficient trackwork operations.

“We had good positive consultation with trainers in relation to the stable layout. We are going to make small alterations which we think will improve the efficiency and workability in mornings for trackwork in the new stable complex.

There will be an observation room so they will be able to go to a first level and see their horse from a good vantage point. It looks like we might have to reduce the stables to around the mid 400’s” Dowell said.

The NJC are among clubs hoping to benefit from the $67 million investment in regional racetracks announced last June as part of the 2021-22 NSW Government budget. A development application has been lodged with the state government.

“We are hoping that in the next twelve months or so, the NJC can secure funding through Racing NSW and the state government” Dowell said. There is an opportunity in the future for major development on the Newcastle Racecourse complex.

Meanwhile the NJC has struck a memorandum of understanding with Hunter Water and Newcastle City Council about progressing a project to build a storm water farming system at Newcastle Racecourse. The water runoff from surrounding areas would be captured and stored in the infield and used on the racecourse and on nearby sporting fields.



Kris Lees incredible run of success in the Group 3 Horsepower Newcastle Newmarket continued on March 4 when Newcastle leading trainer won his fourth Newmarket on the trot.

The 2022 Newmarket attracted a quality field to Newcastle for the Newcastle Jockey Clubs major race in the first half of the year.

The track was heavy after 133 millimetres of rain in the days leading up to the race day and jockeys praised the condition of the track under the circumstances. Lees lone representative was the talented mare Wandabaa, nicely weighted with 54 kilograms to carry and Jason Collett aboard.

The mare displayed her liking for the home track with an eye catching second behind Lost And Running in the $1 Million The Hunter in November.  The speedy Ashman set a solid pace up front while Wandabaa which was slow away was well back with three behind her. Collett eased the mare to the outside to take her run at the 300 metres and she unwound. She had a titanic battle with Nimalee in the final 100 metre and Wandabaa got there by the barest margin.

Through The Cracks was a fast finishing third after being last 300 metres out. Australian Bloodstock purchased Wandabaa for $36,000 at an Inglis Classic Sale and her prizemoney now stands at $827,565. She is a valuable breeding proposition. Lees has now trained the last four Newcastle Newmarket’s winners with Gem Song (2021), Special Reward (2020) Princess Posh (2019) and Wandabaa.

Lees father Max won the three Newcastle Newmarket’s. The winning trainer praised his major client Australian Bloodstock after the race “Australian Bloodstock have been great to me. To win four in a row for them is really rewarding and to win your feature races at home is always important.

She has been multiple stakes placed and deserved to win a stakes race. Wandabaa is a valuable mare and comes from a good family. She has a future ahead when she retires” Lees said.

Collett said he was confident with the track heavy. “I thought Wandabaa would relish the heavy track. I was on the back of the right horse. I needed to get to the outer” Collett said.



Lees has dominated the Polytrack Provincial Championships Series in its seven year history and a change in eligibility for the 2022 Provincial Midway Series may not prevent Newcastle s leading trainer from making it four from eight.

This is the first year that horses under the care of a midway eligible trainer can contest the series. Lees made a statement in relation to the 2022 series when his talented 4 year old Rustic Steel outclassed his opponents in the opening qualifier at Newcastle on February 25. Clearly the best horse in the race, the Queensland owned gelding was backed from $3.10 into $2 on the strength of an eye catching placing in blistering time at Randwick in his previous start.

Hugh Bowman was aboard Rustic Steel at Randwick and he readily answered the call to travel to Newcastle for his good friend. The Deep Field gelding a $500,000 yearling was held up behind a wall of horses until 350 metres out when he saw daylight he quickly put the issue beyond doubt. Rustic Steel beat the runner up Astero by close to the three lengths with Danish Prince a close third.

Lees was interviewed by Sky Racing following the race “It really was a dominant win. I am sure there is a lot more to come through the other heats but I am happy to have Rustic Steel in the Final. He is a smart horse and lightly raced. This horse drew bad gates during the spring so I put hm away with this series in mind. He is probably better than this grade so hopefully we can get him to the final in one piece. I have such an opinion of him I nominated him for the Doncaster as well” Lees said.

The winners owners Ron and Judy Wanless have been long time clients of the Lees family, firstly with Max and now Kris. The Lees trained Geo won the second Qualifier at Newcastle after the Hawkesbury meeting was transferred.



Newcastle’s best 2 year old Promitto qualified for a start in the 2022 Golden Slipper by winning the Group 2 Skyline Stakes but the colt will not contest the richest 2 year old race in the world.

In fact, sources from the David Atkins stable confirmed that Promitto is in the spelling paddock and he probably won’t race again until late Autumn – early Winter. The colt stormed onto the racing scene on February 12 with a brilliant debut win at Newcastle. Obviously the win shocked racegoers as he was friendless with punters starting at $21. Some close to the Atkins stable secured $61 in all in betting on the Skyline and the son of Devine Prophet with Christian Reith aboard did not let them down.

Newcastle butcher Matt Chidgey bred and races Promitto which races in the colours of the great Gunsynd.