It's still a fortnight away but Kris Lees has been quick off the mark to book Alysha Collett for Luncies in his hometown $250,000 Group 3 Cup (2300m) on September 17.
Collett won the Coffs Harbour Cup last month for Lees on Itz Lily and, with Sydney jockeys not expected to be able to ride at the Newcastle Cup meeting, the leading trainer had no hesitation in securing her services for the import.
"There was no point holding off waiting to see if the Sydney boys can come here," Lees said this morning.
"In any case, Alysha is a very good rider, and has done an excellent job for the stable on Itz Lily.
"She has won four from four on her, including the Summer Provincial Series Final and Muswellbrook and Coffs Cups."
Luncies, a stylish winner in restricted company under 60kg at Hawkesbury's Saturday stand-alone meeting on May 1, has raced twice since resuming and will be Lees' sole representative in the Newcastle Cup, which he won for the first time last year with another import, Mugatoo.
He isn't likely to have a runner in the feature sprint, the Group 3 Australian Bloodstock Cameron Handicap (1500m).
Luncies ran fifth (with 59.5kg) to Itz Lily in the Coffs Cup (1605m) and then finished seventh (beaten only two lengths) to another Newcastle Cup contender Harpo Marx in the Group 3 Premier's Cup (2000m) at the Rosehill program held at Kembla Grange last Saturday.
"I was satisfied with his run, and we've got another fortnight to the Newcastle Cup," Lees said.
"He will have a couple of good gallops leading up to the race, and I'm confident he will be spot on."
. Collett won't be able to continue her association with Itz Lily because of the COVID restrictions when the mare lines up at Royal Randwick tomorrow for what is likely to be her final race before being retired to stud.
Hugh Bowman has the mount in the Benchmark 94 Handicap (1500m), and Lees is hoping some forecast rain arrives in time.
"She has drawn poorly, but hopefully they will run along and give her the opportunity to get them down," he said.
"If the rain comes, she has a great hope."
Lees also runs Cristal Breeze (apprentice Tom Sherry) and Grande Rumore (Jason Collett) at Randwick, both of whom begin new campaigns in the Benchmark 78 Handicap (1200m).
"I'm expecting both will take benefit from this race going further into their preparations," he said.
This autumn's Provincial Championships victor Cristal Breeze will race in a cross-over nose band and a tongue tie.
. Lees has three runners at Newcastle tomorrow (where the rail is 9m out), and his apprentice Dylan Gibbons rides all three.
False Step contests the F&M Class 1 Handicap (1300m), Sammy the CG&E Class 1 Handicap (1300m), and Elected lines up in the Maiden Plate (1400m).
"False Step has been lightly raced to date, and has done nothing wrong in her three country starts," Lees said.
"But she hasn't raced since April, and I'm sure she will be all the better for tomorrow's run.
"I've taken the blinkers back off Sammy, who raced in them when beaten (at odds-on) at Scone at his last run.
"He has worked well since without blinkers, but isn't the easiest horse to trust even though he has the ability.
"Elected is an imported four-year-old who ran well at his local debut when fourth over 1200m at Port Macquarie on August 13.
"I've put a cross-over nose band back on him, and he is going well but will take further improvement from this race."