Chris Waller, Kris Lees to cross swords in Grafton Cup
TWO of Australia's most powerful stables travel to the Clarence River Jockey Club on Thursday with a raft of chances to run in the $200,000 Iron Jack Grafton Cup 2350m.
Newcastle-based heavyweight Kris Lees and powerhouse Chris Waller, known for training dominant galloper Winx, will be going no holds barred with two and three chances respectively in the main event of the July Carnival.
Seven-year-old Lees gelding Sixties Groove (Ireland) is the clear favourite ($3.80) going into the staying race, with Waller's Carzoff ($4.80) next in line.
Joining Carzoff from the Waller stable will be The Lord Mayor ($8) and Satono Rasen ($9.50), as Lees-trained Big Duke ($11) brings up the rear.
Gold Coast trainer Michael Costa could throw a spanner in the works with local hope Ben Looker taking the reigns of La Pulga ($5.50).
"The Grafton Cup has always been his grand final and although the race is a bit stronger than I thought it would be this year - with Chris Waller and Kris Lees having several leading chances - I expect La Pulga to run very well." Michael Costa told Racing NSW earlier in the week.
John Thompson-trained Primitivo ($8) rounds out the punters favourites.
The Lees stable had a strong showing on Ramornie Handicap Day, kicking things off with a win to Illecebrous in the 1100m Class 2 Showcase Handicap opener before Chilly Cha Cha (NZ) was narrowly downed by Peter and Paul Snowden's California Longbow in the finale.
Lees stable representative Lucas Miller said he was confident in the stable's line-up for the Grafton Cup.
"I think Sixties Groove in the cup tomorrow is definitely our best bet. We're definitely here to bring that one home," Miller said.
Jockey Andrew Gibbons had two winners on Ramornie Handicap Day and was eager to take the reigns of Big Duke in the big one.
"I'm really looking forward to riding him. He's a horse that's run fifth or sixth in a Melbourne Cup a few years ago. He's not quite as sharp now but it tells you he's got a lot of class so he's right in the race," Gibbons said.
Waller was yet to field a runner in the July Carnival, leaving his sole chances of a result in the Iron Jack Grafton Cup.