It looks like it could be the girls versus Kris Lees when the gates fly in the $400,000 Provincial Championships final (1400m) at Royal Randwick on Saturday for The Championships Day 2 – Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes Day.
He’s fit enough and races well freshMichelle Ritchie
In what was a superb training performance, Lees qualified eight runners for the rich final through the five qualifying races and is an obvious force in the 15-horse field.
But the betting suggests, despite his numbers, that The Championships trophy may head to either Wyong trainer Kim Waugh or Kembla Grange’s hobby trainer Michelle Ritchie.
Waugh has three in the final – Supreme Effort, His Majesty and Hetty Heights – while Ritchie is the feel-good story of the race with Better Not Blue.
Better Not Blue cost Ritchie just $10,000, and has made the part-time trainer more than $170,000 during his 14-start career which has included four wins.
But a third-placing to Supreme Effort and His Majesty at Wyong’s Provincial Championships qualifying race gave Ritchie more of a thrill than anything.
“Even though I didn’t win the race it still feels like a win because we’ve qualified.”
“It’s even better when you own the whole horse. “I’m over the moon,” she said.
Better Not Blue finished within half a length of Supreme Effort and His Majesty that day and has been installed as an $11 chance on TAB fixed-odds.
The four-year-old was given a good hit-out in a 1200-metre barrier trial at Warwick Farm on March 22 where he finished third.
“He’s fit enough and races well fresh,” Ritchie said.
“You’ve got to treat him softly because he doesn’t like it when you get stuck into him.”
The punters are gathering behind Waugh however, with Hetty Heights and His Majesty favourites at $6.
Her other runner, Supreme Effort, is on the fourth line of betting at $8 in what is shaping up to be a close race.
Waugh said all three of her runners were thriving after their qualifying races.
“They are all very similar horses, all three of them, and they’ve all got a great turn of foot,” she said.
“Randwick will suit His Majesty but they’re two different personalities. Supreme Effort can be a bit hard to handle and is aggressive.
“I don’t think Hetty Heights is too far behind my other two so she’s a big chance too.”
Lees lines up third favourite Danish Twist, Powerline, Electric Power, Marple Miss, Rustic Melody, Zestful, By Golly Molly and Parraay.
Zestful (Gosford) and Rustic Melody (Hawkesbury) were the two Lees horses which won their respective qualifying race while the other finished second or third.
"To be fair the heats have got weaker as we've gone on so Danish Twist and Parraay are probably the two and Electric Power if we get any moisture in the track," Lees said.
- Matt Jones has had a keen interest in horse racing since backing Jeune in the 1994 Melbourne Cup. He covered racing for Fairfax before joining Racing NSW to write for its magazine and website. thechampionships.com.au