The Joe Pride-trained sprint star Eduardo is red...
The Kris Lees-trained Sense Of Occasion secured a 2017 Doncaster Mile ballot exemption after his last-to-first upset at Royal Randwick in the Villiers Stakes over the weekend.
A six-year-old son of Street Sense, the gelding went out as a $31 roughie in betting for Saturday’s $250,000 Group 2 Inglis Villiers Stakes (1600m).
Ben Melham never panicked aboard the galloper and kept his cool coming from last in the pack to win in the final stride securing the horse a ballot free ride into April’s Group 1 Doncaster Mile (1600m) during ‘The Championships’.
Victorian-based hoop Melham had earlier saluted aboard She Will Reign in the $500,000 Inglis Nursery (1000m) and found the narrowest of passages to get Sense Of Occasion through in the day’s marquee race.
“I said, ‘he’s going to run a race this horse’,” winning trainer Lees said post-victory.
“I saw him find a backside and he just got held up, but I thought, ‘oh, he’s still going to charge into a nice gap’.
“At the 150 [metres] I said, ‘he’s going to be right in it’. I rode him as hard as B Melham the last 100 [metres].”
The Villiers Stakes result saw Sense Of Occasion ($31) put a neck on the Lindsay Park-trained Dibayani ($9.50), while Lee & Anthony Freedman’s French import Sarrasin ($21) ran a nice third in his down under debut.
“I knew it would be a solid tempo and Sense Of Occasion always travelled well,” 12-time Group 1 winning jockey Melham, 28, said.
“It was just a matter of getting the right run. Dibayani gave us a good cart through and I knew we had plenty of horse.”
It capped off a remarkable year for the Newcastle-based Lees who won the Randwick Guineas in the autumn with $21 shot Le Romain as well as the lucrative $4 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes with his class mare Lucia Valentina.
“It’s been a great year and I hope it keeps going,” Lees told The Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday.
Sense Of Occasion was the longest-priced Villiers Stakes winner in the past 20 years and handed Lees his first victory in the summer classic, four decades after his father Max won the race with Top Wing (1976).
“I was only five when Top Wing won so I can’t really remember it,” Lees said.
“But I do know that Top Wing’s Villiers was Max’s first Group win at Randwick.
“So, it means a lot to win this race as there are good Newcastle people in the horse and especially for the family of Joe Wragge who passed away recently.
“We came here expecting him to run a competitive race but on the turn I thought he was going to be right in this.”
Disappointing the punters was the beaten Villiers Stakes favourite Fabrizio ($2.60) who ran dead last (14th) 10 lengths off the winner.
The $3 million Doncaster Mile is scheduled for April 1, 2017 and Sense Of Occasion will be out to complete the Villiers – Doncaster double in a single season for the time since Wedding Day (1916-17) should he run in the classic.
Lees though is far from confirming the Group 1 target, instead focusing on next month’s $150,000 Listed Gosford Gold Cup (2100m) on January 13 for Sense Of Occasion.
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2016 Villiers Stakes Results & Finishing Order
Randwick Race 7 – 17/12/2016
|1||14||SENSE OF OCCASION||Kris Lees||Ben Melham||–||4||54kg||$31|
|2||1||DIBAYANI (IRE)||David & B Hayes & T Dabernig||Damien Oliver||0.2L||7||59kg||$9.50|
|3||13||SARRASIN (GB)||Lee & Anthony Freedman||Kerrin McEvoy||1.2L||3||54kg||$21|
|4||9||CENTRE PIVOT||Peter Robl||Jay Ford||1.9L||2||55kg||$101|
|5||3||HOPFGARTEN||Robert Heathcote||Tye Angland||2L||14||57.5kg||$11|
|6||2||AMOVATIO||Chris Waller||Hugh Bowman||2.8L||1||58kg||$16|
|7||6||RUDY||Helen Page||Glyn Schofield||3.5L||11||56.5kg||$10|
|8||11||HAZZABEEL (NZ)||Ciaron Maher||Michael Dee (a)||3.7L||5||54.5kg||$14|
|9||18||DUCA VALENTINOIS (IRE)||John O’Shea||Brenton Avdulla||3.8L||13||53kg||$14|
|10||16||BERRY DELICIOUS||Jason Coyle||Ms Kathy O’Hara||3.9L||12||53kg||$26|
|11||15||HIGH MIDNIGHT||James Cummings||James Innes Jnr (a)||5.9L||6||53kg||$10|
|12||8||PAJARO (NZ)||Peter & Paul Snowden||Blake Shinn||7.1L||9||55.5kg||$10|
|13||10||BIG MEMORY (FR)||Tony McEvoy||Tommy Berry||8.5L||8||54.5kg||$26|
|14||7||FABRIZIO||Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott||Tim Clark||9.9L||10||55.5kg||$2.60F|
|–||17||LOYALTY MAN||Michael Moroney||Patrick Moloney||–||0||–||–|
|–||5||MALICE||John O’Shea||James Doyle||–||0||–||–|
|–||12||KENJORWOOD||Darren Weir||Dean Yendall||–||0||–||–|
|–||4||RED EXCITEMENT||Gerald Ryan||Joshua Parr||–||0||–||–|
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