Newcastle races: Trainer Andrew Macdonald catches a break and Kris Lees colt dominates

ANDREW MacDonald is more accustomed to breaking in horses for top Newcastle trainer Kris Lees rather than sharing the winners’ circle with him on race days.

The Medowie horseman, who focuses on breaking at his Williamtown stables, had his first winner since January when Jeff Penza steered Our Lady Violet to victory in a 1300m maiden plate at Newcastle on Tuesday. It was the five-year-old mare’s third start for MacDonald and followed second-placed efforts at Taree and Scone.

MacDonald, who has only two horses in work as a trainer, welcomed the breakthrough for his stable and Our Lady Violet’s owners, the Kent family from Camden. Four generations of the family were on hand to watch the half-length victory.

“I’ve been knocking on the door since January, so it’s nice to see, and it’s for good owners too,” said MacDonald, who has broken in the likes of Deep Field and group 1-winning Newcastle mare In Her Time.

“It’s great to get a win for good owners who aren’t millionaires. They just chip away and love the horses. And it’s been a few years between drinks for them.”

A race earlier, Lees’ latest two-year-old prospect, The Tenor, led all the way on debut for a two-length win over 900m. It was leading Sydney jockey Brenton Avdulla’s only ride on the program and came two weeks after he piloted Lees-trained filly Smart Melody to an impressive win at Canterbury.

“Kris is producing some nice two-year-olds, obviously later in the season,” Avdulla said. “Obviously he’s got a good bunch of riders at home who are educating them well because they are going to the races and producing. He was never really comfortable in front over the 900 but he’s obviously a quality colt with a bright future.

“This horse will probably need 1400 or a bit further. Smart Melody seems to be a speed horse, a pretty explosive filly.”

On Wednesday, Cessnock jockey Robert Thompson will have to overcome the second-widest gate when he chases his fifth Ramornie Handicap (1200m) win at Grafton, this time with 2014 champion Big Money.

Thompson has won the listed race with The Jackal in 2007 and 2008, as well as with Youthful Jack in 2013 and Big Money, which was also second in 2016.

He said the wide draw was a blow for the Rod Northam-trained eight-year-old, which won a trial at Muswellbrook last Friday but has not raced since the group 3 Southern Cross Stakes in February.

“He hasn’t run for a while, they’ve had a few problems with him, but he seems to be back on track now,” Thompson said.

“We’ve got a big hurdle to overcome though with the barrier.”

He said Lees’ Zestful would be hard to beat in an open race, which also features Hunter-trained hopes Akasaki, Got Unders and The Monstar.