In a coup for the Newcastle Jockey Club and Newcastle’s premier trainer Kris Lees, Australia’s most successful jockey Damian Oliver, and another of racings best Ben Melham will ride at Fridays Sharp Office Newcastle Gold Cup meeting. Both jockeys will ride Lees trained stayers in the $300,000 Group 3 Sharp Office Newcastle Gold Cup, and the pair Kalapour and Cleveland will be two of the favored runners. After a frustrating run of minor placings Lees won his first Newcastle Cup in 2020 with Australian Bloodstock imported stayer Mugatoo, which was narrowly beaten in the Group 1 The Metropolitan at Randwick two weeks later.
Kalapour has not raced since he started favourite but lost his rider Tim Clark in the Wyong Cup dramas two weeks back however, the lightly raced Irish bred 7-year-old had good form in Queensland during the winter. Part owned by Kiwi Lib Petagna who raced one of Lees’ best, three-time Group 1 winner Lucia Valentina, Kalapour won the Group 3 Chairmans Handicap at Doomben in May, and in the same month was less than a length from the winner in the Group 3 Premiers Cup at Eagle Farm.
Lees said Kalapour had come through the Wyong incident without any problems.
“Kalapour is fit and ready to go and when it was apparent Tim Clark would not be available, I contacted Ollie as we have a good association. I am thrilled he agreed to come up and ride in all three Group 3 races for me on Cup Day. Cleveland has trained on well since his eye catching first up fourth in the Premiers Cup at Randwick on August 19. He is a nice stayer formerly with Joseph O’Brien” Lees said.
Cleveland was a $4 chance when down the track in the Sydney Cup in April. Melham regularly rides for Lloyd Williams, and he will be aboard Cleveland in the Williams colours on Friday. Melham won the 2017 Golden Slipper on She will Reign. His only Newcastle ride was in last year’s Newcastle Cup on Mankayan, which finished fifth.
Oliver has ridden 128 Group 1 winners including two for Lees – Lucia Valentina in the 2016 Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick and Amokura in the Queensland Oaks in June this year. ‘Ollie’ has ridden four winners at Newcastle in the past. Lees is confident that Luncies will run well in the Group 3 $250,000 Australian Bloodstock Cameron Handicap. “Luncies ran second in the Cameron last year with Ollie aboard, I believe he will run well” Lees said. Oliver also rides Bellatrix Black in the Yarraman Park Stud Group 3 $250,000 Tibbie Stakes.
Lees will also run Inver Park (Cameron) and Razeta (Tibbie) on Cup day.
With the increased prizemoney levels, the 2023 Newcastle Cup day will be the richest Cup day ever. With a 30-degree day expected, and no rain during the week the track will be perfect, and all function areas are booked out.
It is Newcastle’s 2-day Spring Carnival, and Saturday is Charlestown Square Ladies Day featuring Fashions On The Field and live music throughout the day. The day features eight quality races.