Gary Harley – Wrap – 24.02.22

Kris Lees has trained the winner of three of the seven Polytrack Provincial Championship Finals and last Thursday Newcastle’s leading trainer gave notice that he can make it four in 2022. There is a change to conditions in 2022 after Racing NSW has allowed Midway trainers to compete alongside the Provincial trainers.

The series is now called the Polytrack Provincial – Midway Championships. The Newcastle Jockey Club hosted the first of the 2022 Qualifiers last Thursday and the trainers talented 4yo Rustic Steel was a hot favourite and he did not let his backers down with an authoritative victory.

Lees engaged close friend Hugh Bowman to ride the Queensland owned gelding and Rustic Steel was backed off the map. He jumped well then drifted back near midfield one off the rail. Bowman was held up behind a wall of horses until 350m out but when the horse saw daylight he sprinted quickly. The winning margin was just under three lengths with Astero running on well for second and Danish Prince a close third.

It was Rustic Steel’s fifth victory in nine starts and following the race the gelding firmed from $26 into $6 equal favourite for the $500,000 Final at Randwick on April 9. 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. He is lightly raced and we held him back. Rustic Steel drew bad gates during the spring so we put him 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”.

Bowman certainly had a day out with four winners on the eight race program. The champion jockey and Lees combined with a double as earlier in the day the pair were associated with the Irish import Aquileon, winner of the Horsepower Class 1 and Maiden Plate (2300m).

The Nathan Doyle trained Beholder with Bowman aboard landed a nice plunge when he won the Coastline Pools and Spas Maiden Handicap (1200m). it was the geldings sixth start and he raced away to win by 1 ½ lengths.

Bowmans remaining winner was the promising Chris Waller trained 3yo Endorsement who won the Prince of Merewether Maiden Handicap (1200m).

The David Atkins trained Greenheart finally broke through for his second win in the Avid PM Class 1 Handicap (900m).