Lees to field strong The Hunter team

Kris Lees is preparing to launch a heavy handed assault of Saturday’s $1 million The Hunter as he puts another feature victory at his home track in his crosshairs.

Lees won his maiden Group 3 Newcastle Cup earlier this year and is now hungry to capture the track’s richest race in its second edition after Tactical Advantage ran second in the feature 1300m event last year.

A competitive list of 26 horses were listed among the nominations for this year’s The Hunter on Monday and six of those came from the Lees camp.

Tactical Advantage will return to the race in 2020 while El Dorado Dreaming, Special Reward, Evalina, Asharani and Chief Ironisde have all been nominated.

“El Dorado Dreaming will make her return, Special Reward will be there and Tactical Advantage just needs to show us he has returned from Melbourne alright at trackwork on Tuesday,” Lees said.

“Evalina and Asharani are both further down in the ratings and Chief Ironside is 50-50 but at this stage it’s more likely he will go to The Gong a week later.

“The 1300m might be too short for him.”

Chief Ironside will most likely bypass The Hunter. Photo: George Salpigtidis/Racing Photos via Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

The $1 million The Gong will be staged the following week over a mile at Kembla Grange with both races in their second year after being introduced by Racing NSW in 2019 to boost the NSW spring.

Bookies TAB.com.au rate Chief Ironside as Lees leading contender at $15 for The Hunter alongside Special Reward.

All of his other four nominated horses are at $26.

Meanwhile, Lees confirmed star galloper Mugatoo would head for a short break but was fine after a raceday mishap saw him scratched from last Saturday’s Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes.

Mugatoo was found to have a laceration to his offside hind leg when he arrived on course at Flemington last weekend.

“He fine, he just had a split in his heel,” Lees said.

“They got to the track and there was a fair bit of blood there but it was the type of thing that wouldn’t have stopped him racing a couple of days later.

“He will be targeted towards the Queen Elizabeth now in the autumn.”

Originally published asLees eyes home track win in The Hunter

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