RNSW- Gary Harley

Newcastle Gold Cup Day

The 2020 Sharp Electronics Group Newcastle Gold Cup Day held on September 18 has been hailed as the best in recent years.

With crowds restricted to the pandemic, 1200 racegoers quickly snapped up allowable seating to witness a quality program which included three Group 3’s of the highest quality. The $200,000 Group 3 Newcastle Gold Cup sponsored by Sharp Electronics Group was first run in 1898 and has been won by Melbourne Cup winners Russia, Hyperno, Gurners Lane and Green Moon.

There was excitement in Australia’s sixth largest city in the lead up to the Cup as the city’s favourite racing son, Kris Lees, winless in the Newcastle Jockey Club’s flagship event in seventeen years of training had his best opportunity to win his hometown Cup. The Lees stable saddled up four stayers in the Cup, Mugatoo, Big Duke, Attention Run and Aliferous. However, the imported stayer Mugatoo was clearly the best of the quartet and punters rallied behind the top weight which went to the barrier as the $2.40 favourite.

The 2019 Newcastle Cup winner Hush Writer was the second elect and front running stayer led with a circuit of the track remaining. Kerrin McEvoy put Mugatoo in a perfect spot six lengths behind the leader, one off the rail. Hush Writer was full of running halfway down the straight but when McEvoy called on the favourite he sprinted quickly and put the issue beyond doubt.

Mugatoo won by 1½ lengths from Hush Writer with the winners stablemate Attention Run in third place. Mugatoo is the first Newcastle trained stayer to win the Newcastle Cup since Rock Mal was successful in 1961.

All four of Lees’ Cup runners are owned by the Hunter based Australian Bloodstock syndicates, Lees greatest clients. Lees was clearly thrilled to finally win his first hometown Cup.

“It’s not a time honoured event for others but it was our hometown Cup and it means a lot to a lot of people such as the staff, and Australian Bloodstock. So, I am very relieved but very grateful too. Mugatoo is a really good horse and he has a bright future. I can’t thank Australian Bloodstock enough. I am extremely in debt to them for the opportunity they have given me over the past ten years or so. They keep producing the right horses,” Lees said.

Rock Goes Back To Back

For the second year in succession the talented Rock produced a barn storming finish to win the Group 3 Australian Bloodstock Cameron Handicap. In 2019 Rock came from last to mow the opposition down and this year he unwound from sixth at the ‘400’ to win by more than 3½ lengths from Just Thinkin’ and Chief Ironside.

Tommy Berry has ridden Rock to win both Cameron’s and it was the horses first win since the 2019 Cameron Handicap. Co-trainer Michael Hawkes said after the race that Rock appreciated the magnificently presented Newcastle course proper.

“He has been wanting a dry track. Last year Rock went to the Epsom and the wheels were spinning and he still finished fifth. Then we went to the Cantala Stakes at Flemington and it rained and the track was a soft 7. I believe he could have won one of those Group 1’s on a dry track. Rock has a brilliant turn of foot and he is heading for the Epsom and he has a very good live chance,” Hawkes said.

Rock is only the second horse to win successive Cameron Handicaps. Muswellbrook mare Without Reproach was successful in 1969 and 1970.

J-Mac At His Best

Randwick trainer John O’Shea heaped praise on James McDonald after he produced a classic ride on the New Zealand bred and owned All Saints’ Eve to win the Group 3 Yarraman Park Tibbie Stakes for Fillies and Mares. In only her eighth race start, the mare settled in eighth spot on the rail, and she had nowhere to go at the ‘300’.

McDonald steered All Saints’ Eve into a gap soon after and she sprinted quickly to beat Yamazaki and Wandabaa. “I didn’t expect her to be that dominate as I thought she still had improvement. I thought All Saints’ Eve would run first four but it was a beautiful McDonald ride. It was the difference between winning and losing. She will probably head to the Group 3 Angst,” O’Shea said.

Le Romain Retires

Kris Lees paid tribute to is three-time Group 1 winner Le Romain following the announcement of the eight-year-old geldings retirement. Le Romain pulled up lame when seventh in the Bill Ritchie Handicap at Randwick in late September.

Bred by brothers Tony and Mark Carusi, Le Romain only attracted a $20,000 offer as a yearling so the brothers decided to race him. At the end of his career the gelding had accumulated $4,306,775 from 7 wins and 18 placings. His three Group 1 wins were the Randwick Guineas, Cantala Stakes and Canterbury Stakes. He was twice second to Winx at Group 1 level.

Lees was full of praise for one of his favourites “He has been great, he had longevity which not many have. Le Romain was a Group 1 winner at three and four and he was still competitive at seven. He had lifesaving colic surgery halfway through his career and still came back and raced at the highest level,” Lees said.

Lees Farewells Another Two

Tough stayer Big Duke and enigmatic mare Miss Fabulass have also retired form the racetrack. Big Duke was formally trained by Darren Weir and he spent the past 18 months Kris Lees. He was dual Group winning horse, with placings at Group 1 level and prizemoney of $1,927,000.

Miss Fabulass won the Group 2 Tea Rose and was runner up in a Group 1 Coolmore Classic. A daughter of Frankel and three time Group 1 winner Samantha Miss, Miss Fabulass is a very valuable mare.

The 2020 The Hunter

The $1 Million Hunter (1300m) will highlight the standalone Saturday meeting at Newcastle on November 14. The program will include the $160,000 Group 3 New Zealand Bloodstock Spring Stakes (1600m) for three-year-old’s. The $125,000 Max Lees Classic (900m) for two-year-old’s is also on the program.