Lees playing the numbers game in Provincial Championships

Kris Lees is leaving no stone unturned in a final bid to increase his number of representatives for the $500,000 Provincial Championships Final (1400m) at Royal Randwick in a fortnight.

Lees already has four runners – ruling favorite Asharani  ($4.50), a record-breaking winner of the Gosford heat transferred to Newcastle last Thursday, Stella Sea Sun  ($11) and Great Danger  and Enchanted Heart  (each $15) – in the April 11 feature, and has weight in numbers for the fifth and last $150,000 Qualifier (1350m) at Wyong on Saturday.

ASHARANI winning the Prov Championships Gosford Qualifier.
ASHARANI winning the Prov Championships Gosford Qualifier. Picture: Steve Hart

Three places are up for grabs to complete the Final field of 15, and he will have seven starters, and a possible eight as Siesta Key is first emergency.

Lees starts Albert's No Pussy  (Chris O'Brien), Juventus  (Sam Clenton), Jack's Bar (Jake Hull), Lifetime Quest (Christian Reith), Bombasay (Mitchell Bell), Animate (Andrew Gibbons) and Bubbles Ball (Louise Day).

STELLA SEA SUN winning the Refinitiv Handicap
STELLA SEA SUN winning the Refinitiv Handicap Picture: Steve Hart

Lifetime Quest, though awkwardly drawn but with blinkers on, is the early $3.70 favorite, but Lees feels Juventus ($12), with winkers back on, is worth another chance.

"Admittedly, he was a bit plain at Kembla Grange last Saturday (eighth to Electric Girl over 1400m), but is better than that," Lees said this afternoon.

"Juventus  got back from a poor draw and made the home turn very wide.

"He is much more favourably drawn at Wyong and we can be more positive on him.

"I'm sure he can improve."

Lees has already won two of the five finals (Danish Twist in 2016 and Serene Miss in 2018) since the series was launched in 2015.

He had not planned to again start Great Danger, who qualified when placed in the Hawkesbury heat on March 7, but has decided to run him at tomorrow's Muswellbrook Gold Cup Showcase meeting.

He will run in the $50,000 Wayne Harris Showcase Handicap (1280m), and non-claiming apprentice Sam Clenton will ride him.

"I was going to trial him leading up to the Provincial Championships Final, but with all the uncertainty surrounding racing in the current climate, I thought it best to start him at Muswellbrook," Lees explained.

Lees is chasing a second victory in tomorrow's $150,000 Muswellbrook Gold Cup Showcase (1500m), having won the race in 2014 with Pitt Street.

He accepted with both Articus (Andrew Gibbons) and Top Prospect (Clenton), but has indicated he will rely on the former if both Muswellbrook and Saturday's Rosehill Gardens meeting proceed as expected.

Top Prospect  (James McDonald) will line up in the Benchmark 88 Handicap (1400m) at Rosehill, seeking to add to his first-up Kensington 1400m victory on March 4.

"Articus has a big weight (61.5kg) at Muswellbrook, but was runner-up in the Group 3 Cameron Handicap (1500m) on his home track last September," Lees said.

"He can run well fresh, is in good order and the soft ground will suit him."

. Lees has five runners at Doomben on Saturday; Kellstorm (apprentice Nick Keal) and Calibration (Andrew Mallyon) in the Benchmark 70 Handicap (2200m), and Mr Garcia (Larry Cassidy), Mawaany Machine (James Orman) and Mongolian Wolf (Mallyon) in the Open Handicap (2200m).

He considers Mr Garcia, who has been thereabouts at recent runs and made nice ground when fourth in a shorter 1800m Quality at the Gold Coast on March 14, is close to a win.

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