Newcastle trainer Kris Lees begins life with his newest stable star Brave Smash this weekend as the fallout from Darren Weir’s four-year ban continues around the country.
The six-year-old entire will strive for a third group 1 win on Saturday, lining up in the $500,000 C.F Orr Stakes (1400 metres) at Caulfield after recently switching from Weir to Lees.
It comes as Melbourne Cup-winning Weir, suspended this week by Racing Victoria until 2023 for using outlawed electric shock devices known as “jiggers”, confirmed on Thursday selling his Ballarat stables to co-trainers Ciaron Maher and David Eustace.
Weir was overseeing hundreds of horses at both his Ballarat and Warrnambool operations and many, like Brave Smash, are now being redistributed.
Lees confirmed he had a “few coming” from Weir, but Brave Smash was the only one running this weekend.
He feels Brave Smash, owned by Hunter syndicators Australian Bloodstock, has bright prospects.
“I can’t elaborate too much but I can say that he [Brave Smash] arrived in terrific order, as you would expect,” Lees told the Newcastle Herald.
“I’m really looking forward to see how he goes.”
Japanese-born Brave Smash, which won both the Manikato Stakes and Futurity in Melbourne last year, will launch from barrier seven as equal top weight (59 kilograms) with jockey Michael Walker on board.
Brave Smash, which resumed with a ninth in the group 2 Australia Stakes (1200m) at Moonee Valley on January 25, may also contest the upcoming Futurity and All Star Mile according to Australian Bloodstock co-director Luke Murrell.
He was paying $13 for the win on TAB fixed odds on Friday afternoon with Kementari ($3.50) the favourite.
Lees also has Evalina and Gem Song running at Warwick Farm on Saturday.
Three-year-old filly Evalina, which has one win and three placings from five career starts, will contest the $1million Inglis Sprint (1100m) having trialed at Newcastle on January 22 after a 12-week spell.
“It’s been a nice preparation but it’s just one race at a time with her,” Lees said.
Three-year-old colt Gem Song, which hasn’t raced since late September following a spike in temperature, landed the inside lane for the group 3 Aquis Farm Eskimo Prince Stakes (1200m).
Meanwhile, Lees was “very happy” with the trial form of Graff at Flemington on Friday morning ahead of next weekend’s group 1 Lightning Stakes (100m).
In Her Time, formally with suspended Newcastle trainer Ben Smith, is also down in the Victorian capital for the same race but didn’t trial with Lees already satisfied by the mare’s fitness.
Lees “wasn’t sure where or when” Le Romain, nominated for next month’s inaugural All Star Mile, would go next but said the six-year-old gelding “pulled up well” from a second in the group 2 Expressway Stakes (1200m).