Blinkers off for Rustic Steel

Kris Lees has opted for a gear change on Rustic Steel as he makes a two-pronged attack on the $500,000 The Coast at Gosford on Saturday.

Trainer : KRIS LEES
Trainer : KRIS LEES  Picture: Steve Hart

Blinkers come off Rustic Steel (Jay Ford), who joins stablemate Kinloch  (Dylan Gibbons) in the 1600m feature for three and four-year-olds at the stand-alone meeting – the first time both talented four-year-olds have tackled the distance.

"Rustic Steel has raced in blinkers for just over 12 months, but I feel it's best to leave them off," Lees said this afternoon.

"It's his first run for a month and first crack at the mile, but he is racing well and brilliantly won a trial at home on April 26.

"Kinloch has drawn the outside, but gets back anyway and knows Gosford, having won a heat of the Provincial-Midway Championships there first-up in March before winning the Final at Randwick.

"There was nothing wrong with his last-start closing third in the Tamworth Cup either.

"I have a slight preference for Rustic Steel, simply because he is better drawn.

"But there is really nothing between them. There was only a half-length between the pair in the Provincial-Midway Championships Final at Randwick last month."

Lees also has dual representatives in both the Benchmark 78 Handicap (2080m) and Listed Takeover Target Stakes (1200m).

Our Candidate  (Dylan Gibbons) and Ting Tong  (Alysha Collett) line up in the former, and Animate (Gibbons) and Strange Charm (Tim Clark) contest the Takeover Target, with Clark expected to ride 0.5kg over at 53.5kg.

"Our Candidate has to be taken on trust, and hasn't won for a long time," Lees said.

"He has had a freshen and hopefully that switches him on.

"Ting Tong is a three-year-old in good form, and I expect him to run well with no weight.

"He has been nominated for the Queensland Derby (2400m) at Eagle Farm at the end of the month, but needs to perform well on Saturday for us to give further thought to that race.

"Animate is awkwardly drawn in the Takeover Target, but can put in a good run fresh and isn't to be dismissed if he can have some luck in the run.

"It's a jump in grade for Strange Charm, but she has the inside draw, loves soft ground and has a 50 per cent win record first-up."

Lees also runs Galaxy Belle (Gibbons) in the Benchmark 72 Handicap (1600m) for three and four-year-olds, having been freshened since finishing seventh in the Group 3 Epona Stakes (1900m) at Rosehill Gardens on March 19.

"She is back to a Benchmark race, likes the 1600m and had a tick-over trial on April 26," he said.

Grande Rumore (Alysha Collett) and Redoute's Image (Gibbons) are acceptors for the Benchmark 78 Handicap (1200m), but the latter is not a certain starter.

Lees withdrew Grande Rumore from a similar race over 1300m at Hawkesbury's stand-alone last Saturday because of the heavy track.

"They may be a bit sharp around Gosford at 1200m, but it will set her up nicely for the remainder of her preparation," he said.

. Whilst Lees will have two runners in the $500,000 feature at Gosford, he will also have dual representation in regional Queensland's newest race at Rockhampton on Saturday with his first runners at the track.

Gem Song (Aaron Bullock) and Ventura Ocean (Nathan Day) will line up in the $440,000 The Archer (1300m).

Introduced by Rocky Amateurs, The Archer will be run at weight-for-age and is restricted to 12 starters.

"They have given us the visitor's draw," Lees joked, a reference to Gem Song's outside barrier and Ventura Ocean's nine.

"Gem Song obviously has the better credentials, and I'm sure he will run well provided he can get some luck from the alley.

"He has come back in great form, having won the Group 3 Star Kingdom Stakes (1200m) first-up here when subsequent Tamworth Cup winner Bandersnatch was fifth, and then ran fourth to Kementari in the Group 3 Hall Mark Stakes (1200m) at Randwick on April 16 when last week's Eagle Farm winner Count De Rupee was runner-up.

"Ventura Ocean is up in grade, but can take further improvement from his placing at Eagle Farm last Saturday."

The Lees' pair arrived safely in Rockhampton after an overnight float trip from their Gold Coast base.

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