KRIS Lees is counting on a soft run last start and a wide draw proving blessings in disguise for Sense Of Occasion in the group 1 Doomben Cup (2000 metres) on Saturday.
Sense Of Occasion will start from the extreme outside in the 16-horse field for the Newcastle trainer in the $650,000 feature at Doomben, which was rated a heavy 9 on Friday morning as rain continued to fall.
The surface will be no concern for Lees, whose six-year-old gelding won the listed McKell Cup on heavy going in 2015, the 2016 Villiers on a soft ground and was third to Doomben Cup equal favourite It’s Somewhat in the Doncaster Mile last month on a bog.
He backed up that run with third to Winx in the $4 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes on a soft Randwick track before an eye-catching finish when sixth in the group 2 Hollindale Stakes on the Gold Coast two weeks ago.
Sense Of Occasion, which has won close to $1 million in prizemoney since joining the Lees stable less than a year ago, was $9.50 with TAB Fixed Odds on Friday for the Cup.
Lees was pleased with his charge and hoped the wide draw would prove a positive, keeping Sense Of Occasion on fresher ground in the seventh race of the day on a heavy track.
“I can’t fault him, he’s in great order,” Lees said.
“He worked good Tuesday and he can handle heavy ground.
“It’s a bad draw, but with a heavy track, that might not be a bad draw.”
Jockey Corey Brown was critical of his ride on Sense Of Occasion in the Hollindale, where he kept his mount three wide in a slowly-run race.
Lees was forgiving and hoped Sense Of Occasion, which he said “went terrific” last start, had a bit extra in the tank for Saturday.
“I suppose if there’s a benefit, he didn’t have a testing run, so he’s getting here in good order and I think he’ll run well,” he said.
“This was always the plan with him and that will probably do for the preparation, then we’ll look to the spring.”
Hunter syndicators Australian Bloodstock have the Darren Weir-trained Articus in the Cup. It was equal $4.20 favourite on Friday.
Meanwhile, Lees said three-year-old colt Guard Of Honour could be gelded if he fails to fire at Rosehill on Saturday. The listed Heritage Stakes winner was seven in the Mick Dittman Plate at Doomben last start.
“I just want him to have no excuses,” Lees said. “He’s had a few in his last couple and young colts start to find ways of getting beat. So I don’t want any excuses for him and this run may decide his fate from staying in one piece, so to speak.”
Guard Of Honour was scratched from Doomben to race at Rosehill.
“That was purely because we are guaranteed a heavy track up here so we didn't bother putting him on the float. Again, if it’s heavy going in Sydney, he won’t go there either.”