Lees looking forward to home town Hunter

Mandy Cottell
·2-min read

Kris Lees is planning to stack the bases as he looks to go one better in the second edition of the $1 million The Hunter at Newcastle.

The local trainer had to settle for second in the inaugural running when Tactical Advantage finished in the slipstream of Godolphin mare Savatiano.

The classy sprinter is again among Lees' six nominations for Saturday's 1300m race, which headlines a rare Saturday feature program in the trainers' home town.

Twelve months ago, Racing NSW introduced $1 million races in the provincial centres of Newcastle and Kembla Grange at the end of the Sydney spring carnival and the meetings were a resounding success.

While COVID-19 crowd restrictions will impact on the atmosphere this year, Lees says staging a feature off-season program at Newcastle is a great concept.

"It obviously won't have the same crowd as last year but it was well received and I think it will be a good day again," Lees said.

"It fits in quite well and it's the best track in NSW so I think we've got to use it when we can."

Along with Tactical Advantage, who returns from an inauspicious journey to Melbourne, Lees has Special Reward, Chief Ironside, Evalina, El Dorado Dreaming and Asharani entered for The Hunter.

The latter three were scratched from the Hot Danish Stakes at Rosehill on Saturday due to the heavy track while Special Reward is looking to bounce back after he was well beaten in the Sydney Stakes.

The Newcastle Newmarket winner in the autumn, Special Reward had been around the mark in three campaign runs prior to his last-start failure.

"He was a bit disappointing at his most recent run," Lees said.

"We can't fault his work and hopefully he can bounce back on his home track."

The Hunter has attracted a total of 28 nominations including five from the Godolphin yard, headed by reigning titleholder Savatiano.

The meeting will also feature the Group Three NJC 3YO Spring Stakes (1600m) and the Max Lees Classic (900m) for two-year-olds.