Luncies ready to run well in the cup says Lees

Kris Lees expects Luncies to run well as he chases a second successive Newcastle Gold Cup tomorrow, but says he has been “well found”.

LUNCIES  Picture: Steve Hart this morning listed the import as a $5 joint second favorite with Hawkesbury Rowley Mile and Wyong Cup winner Berdibek for the $250,000 Showcase Cup, just behind Premier's Cup winner Harpo Marx ($4.80).

"Luncies has been well found in the market," Lees said this morning. "I'd consider him more a $10 chance.

"Nonetheless, I expect him to run well. He is in great order and we have aimed him specifically at this race."

Lees has spaced both Luncies' runs this time in work to have him at his top for his hometown Cup, which he won last year with Mugatoo, breaking an exasperating run of minor placings in the 2300m Group 3 feature.

The lightly-raced Iffraaj five-year-old, who made light of his 60kg to win a Benchmark 78 Handicap (1800m) at Hawkesbury's metropolitan stand-alone meeting on May 1, resumed when fifth to stablemate Itz Lily in the Coffs Harbour Cup (1605m) on August 5.

At his only start since, he finished seventh (beaten only two lengths) to Harpo Marx in the Group 3 Premier's Cup (2000m) at the Rosehill Gardens meeting at Kembla Grange meeting on August 28.

He now meets Harpo Marx on 3kg better terms.

"My confidence level is not as high as it was last year with Mugatoo, but I'm very happy with Luncies," Lees said.

"He gets his chance to win his first Group race in Australia, with the limit weight (54kg)."

The talented expatriate Kiwi jockey Alysha Collett rides Luncies, seeking to join fellow New Zealander Deb Healey (Mr Mako in 1985) and Leeann Olsen (Seto Bridge in 1995) as female riders to have won the Newcastle Cup.

Lees has withdrawn Itz Lily from the Group 3 Yarraman Park Tibbie Stakes (1400m) against her own sex to contest the Group 3 Australian Bloodstock Cameron Handicap (1500m), where she is currently at $10.

However, as of 10am this morning, he had not finalised a rider for the in-form mare, who is nearing the end of her racing career.

"The soft conditions will suit Itz Lily," Lees said. "I'll be surprised if she doesn't go well again."

Lees won the Cameron with Absolutelyfabulous in 2009, and the Tibbie twice (Fine Bubbles in 2014 and Princess Posh in 2018), with $51 outsider Think Free (Darryl McLellan) being his sole representative this year in the fillies and mares' feature.

"Think Free probably looks a bit outgraded, but she deserves her chance in a Group 3 as she reacts so well on soft ground," he said.

Following 105mm of rain in the past seven days, Newcastle this morning had a "Soft 6" rating.

Lees' only other Cup day runner is Elected (apprentice Dylan Gibbons) in the CG&E Maiden Handicap (1400m).

"This will be only his third Australian start, and I'm sure he is going to appreciate further ground as he gets into his campaign," he said. "I consider him a good place chance."

. Lees has two acceptors – Rustic Steel (Benchmark 78 Handicap, 1400m) and the ultra-consistent Triple Ace (Benchmark 88 Handicap, 1100m) – at Royal Randwick on Saturday, but both have drawn poorly, and at this stage are not definite starters.

. Tavisan (Andrew Mallyon) in the 900m Quality Handicap and Spanish Point (Ryan Maloney) in the Benchmark 78 Handicap (1800m) are his representatives at the Gold Coast metropolitan Saturday meeting.

"Tavisan (former Victorian) won well at the Sunshine Coast on August 25 at his first start for us, and I expect him to run well again," Lees said.

"Spanish Point has been freshened since failing at Eagle Farm on August 14 after winning there 10 days earlier.

"He has had a tick-over 1000m trial at the Gold Coast since, but has drawn awkwardly. Any rain would boost his chances."

Daltoro, an acceptor for the Class 3 Plate (1100m) on Saturday, will instead run at Eagle Farm tomorrow in a Benchmark 72 Handicap (1000m).

Racing and Sports