Hunter Valley mare Apache Jewel caused a huge boilover at the Newcastle Jockey Club’s race meeting on Saturday when she won her first race at her 21st start. With her trainer Ben Lees absent from the meeting as he was inspecting yearlings at the Inglis complex, Apache Jewel stunned punters when she came from midfield to run down Silvincible in the Bonvilla Estate Maiden Plate (1600m).
A huge drifter in betting from $41 to $81 the mare was patiently ridden by Darryl McLellan. Thirty-nine-year-old Lees has a small stable on his property at Wybong situated between Muswellbrook and Denman. A former rodeo rider, Lees has only held a thoroughbred trainers licence since the winter of 2021. “ I wasn’t surprised that Apache Jewel won because she can be chalk and cheese. Her biggest problem is that she won’t settle in most of her races and when that happens, she doesn’t perform. It has been along battle and today she obviously did everything right for Digger. I broke the mare in, and she is a family favourite. I only had $50 in my TAB account, and I did back her. My wife Rebecca is a hard worker and she cleans up the boxes and feeds the horses. We have 260 acres, break in as well as train and produce 5000-10000 bales of hay each year” Lees said.
Promising stayer Ausbred Rising Sun confirmed his potential going forward with an easy win in the Calvary Mater Newcastle Class 1 and Maiden Plate (1850m). The son of Japanese sire Maurice is trained by Brad Widdup and Ash Morgan gave the winner a gun ride. The three-year-old turned in an outstanding performance to come from last in a big field to win on debut on the Beaumont track on December 17. On Australia Day he was beaten a nose over ‘1600’ at Warwick Farm and on Saturday he sported blinkers in his third race start. Ausbred Rising Sun stepped up in trip on Saturday and he bolted in.
Randwick trainer John Sargent prepared successive winners late in the day. Kiwi bred four-year-old Casual Connection, second up from a spell was the first of ‘Sarges” winners in the J.W Marriott Gold Coast Resort and Spa Midway Benchmark 64 Handicap (1600m). The winner ridden by Lee Magorrian has now won two races with three placings from six starts. The popular trainer completed the double with Ningaloo Star in the Prosperity Advisers Group Benchmark 64 Handicap (1200m). The filly was well backed, and it was her third win in ten starts. Keagan Latham rode the winner, and it was the jockeys third win for the meeting. Latham’s earlier winners were Allaboutella and Pole Position.