Kris Lees can’t remember having a runner in the Magic Millions 3YO Guineas before, but he hasn’t forgotten the time his late father Max narrowly finished second in the same feature race.
Saturday’s second-favourite Sasso Carbaro will attempt to go one better for the famed Newcastle stable, 16 years after Empire was narrowly beaten a long neck by 2002 champion Ha Ha on the Gold Coast track.
Three-time Melbourne Cup-winner Damien Oliver will again be the jockey.
“I know my old man [Max] just got beat, ironically with D Oliver riding, a few years ago,” Lees told the Newcastle Herald from north of the state border on Friday.
“A horse called Empire ran second to Ha Ha. It led everywhere bar the last 50 metres.
“Hopefully we can go one better.”
The three-year-old chestnut filly Sasso Corbaro, which arrived at the Gold Coast on Thursday, goes into the $2million event over 1400 metres with excellent form.
Five career starts are all placed, including back-to-back wins this preparation at Hawkesbury and Randwick throughout December.
The main concern for Lees will be overcoming the wide journey from barrier 14.
“It just depends on what type of run she gets from the wide gate,” Lees said.
“It’s a bit of a sticky gate, but that said they often come to the middle of the track. Especially after they race last week and a long day tomorrow. So time will tell as the day progresses.”
As of Friday afternoon (5pm), Sasso Corbaro was paying $4.60 for the win on TAB fixed odds and $8 on the TAB tote. Topweight favourite Pierata was backed into $2.45 and $3 respectively.
In the other main Magic Millions race, the $2million 2YO Classic (1200m), unbeaten bay colt Jonker, trained at Newcastle by David Atkins, remains the TAB tote favourite at $3.80 but had slipped to $5 on TAB fixed odds behind Sunlight ($4) and Ef Troop ($4.60).
Elsewhere on the Gold Coast card and Lees has three runners – Powerline in the $1million Magic Millions Cup (1400m) as well as Lomazzo and Not Surprising in the $250,000 Country Cup (1200m).
“They’re just rough hopes,” Lees said. “It gives the owners an opportunity to race for the big prizemoney, that’s why they buy the horses from the sales.”
Lees has picked up “a few” horses from this week’s annual Magic Millions sales on the Gold Coast, including a Brazen Beau filly for $80,000.
Meanwhile, Lees will also be keeping an eye on Royal Randwick this Saturday with Reach For Heaven, Sugar Bella and Olympic Academy in action. Aaron Bullock, who was dropped from Jonker, will be the jockey.