Infancy earns group shot, Howards’ Cheeto win; Formosa colt on track

Kris Lees will look to the PJ Bell Stakes with Infancy in four weeks after she defied the odds to impressively score a first black-type win on Saturday at Randwick.

At $26, Infancy was the rank outsider in the listed Fireball Stakes (1100m) but was strongest late to down Godolphin’s Corniche by half a length. Given a gun run midfield with cover by Newcastle apprentice Dylan Gibbons, the three-year-old filly let down best and hit the front at the 100m mark.

It was a third win in nine starts for Infancy but first since her opening two races, both in Queensland, as a two-year-old. The Australian Bloodstock galloper was also placed in listed 1400m company at Eagle Farm at the end of her first preparation but was back in trip on Saturday off a four-week freshen and one trial.

Lees said he would keep Infancy’s runs spaced and next race her in the $250,000 PJ Bell Stakes, a group 3 1200m event for fillies at Randwick, on April 6.

“I think that’s the better way to ride her,” Lees said.

“She needs to be ridden a bit conservative and she got a lovely ride from Dylan, and she actually looked the winner a long way from home.

“We thought she was a genuine place chance to get into some black type.”

Lees, Gibbons and Australian Bloodstock combined again on Sunday to win the listed Canberra Cup with Almania.

On Saturday, Convincebility gave Lees a second qualifier for the $1 million Provincial Midway Championship Final when second in the Hawkesbury heat to Short Shorts. Lees-trained Tavi Time won the Newcastle heat. The successes followed Rustic Steel’s domination of the group 3 Newcastle Stakes on Friday, giving Lees a fifth win in the past six years.

On Sunday, Scone trainers Scott Singleton and Lyle Chandler qualified Russley Crown and Rapbidash respectively for the Country Championship final with the quinella in the Hunter-North West heat at Tamworth.



Ellalong trainer-driver Michael Formosa is confident Ultimate Cruza can fire at the Bathurst Gold Crown 2YO series in two weeks after finishing third at Menangle on Saturday night.

The colt dominated the inaugural Tommy Read Sapling Memorial Final at Newcastle last week and stepped up to group 3 level in the $50,000 Sapling Stakes, where he was sent out a $1.90 favourite.

Ultimate Cruza led easily from gate four and seemed to have a comfortable run, but he was headed by winner Hezatreacherous early in the straight and finished 6.7m away in third.

Formosa put the performance down to the hard run a week earlier when he was three wide for half a lap at Newcastle.

“I was a bit disappointed with him. He just felt a little bit flat,” Formosa said.

“I just put that down to the tough run the week before and then backing up, but he wasn’t terrible. It’s very hard to lead and win first time down there at Menangle.”

The Tommy Reay Memorial win was part of a big weekend for Formosa, who later celebrated his daughter, Chloe, winning the Kevin Newman Award for Driving Excellence for the best drive of 2023.

In the main event on Saturday night, Leap To Fame became the first pacer to complete the Newcastle Mile-Miracle Mile double since Beautide in 2013 when he won the $1 million showpiece in a time of 1:48:3.



Keinbah owner-trainers Natina and Robert Howard will look to The Thunderbolt series with Zip Out Zipper after she delivered a special win in the inaugural The Cheeto at The Gardens on Saturday night.

Zip Out Zipper, a $5.50 chance after finishing second in her heat a week earlier, started well from box one to lead. From there she was never threatened in the 400m $5000-to-the-winner final to win by 5.25 lengths.

It a memorable win for Robert Howard given the race was named in the memory of champion Hunter trainer Ken Cheetham.

“It was good to knock it off,” Howard said. “Cheeto, he used to break in all our dogs and when I was a kid, he helped me out a heap.

“He got me my first job with Peter Mosman at Singleton, so we were pretty close.

“It was a good turn-out, too. All his family were there, so it was a good night.

“She got the breaks from the one hole and it was catch me if you can. There was a jam up behind which helped, but there was plenty of pace in the race, so we were lucky to get around there first and cleanly.”

He said Zip Out Zipper may go to trainer Jason Magri to chase short-course races like The Thunderbolt at tracks such as Richmond and Bull.

At Maitland on Monday night, the Howards have Miss Zipper and Aurora Love in race four and Only Reason in the fifth.

Miss Zipper and Aurora Love have boxes one and two respectively. Howard said he preferred them drawn wide.

“Miss Zipper is probably the better one at this stage but the other one is just stepping up to this distance,” he said.

Only Reason has box seven.

“He needs the inside,” Howard said.

“He’s a desperate railer, but he goes all right. too. It just depends on the first 20 or 30 metres because he looks to get to the fence.”