Mugatoo and Sky Lab on target to deliver Doncaster-Derby double to Newcastle

Newcastle racetrack is the unlikely home of the Doncaster Mile and ATC Australian Derby favourites for Day One of The Championships at Royal Randwick on Saturday.

Proud Novocastrian trainers Kris Lees and Paul Perry are regular competitors at Group 1 level but this is the first time the leading provincial racing and training centre has had such a powerful presence on one of Australian racing’s most prestigious days.

Lees trains the outstanding Mugatoo, the $4.50 favourite for the $3 million The Star Doncaster Mile (1600m), the richest mile handicap in world racing.

Perry prepares the much improved three-year-old Sky Lab, who heads betting at $5 for the $2 million Bentley ATC Australian Derby (2400m), the most significant three-year-old classic in the southern hemisphere.

There are about 350 horses in work at Newcastle which is considerably less than the numbers in training at each of the three NSW metropolitan racetracks – Randwick, Rosehill Gardens and Warwick Farm – so it underlines the strength of the provincial racing centre that they are so well represented at the Doncaster-Derby meeting.

Lees has had chances to win the Doncaster Mile previously but senses this might be his best opportunity with Mugatoo.

“I’m really pleased with Mugatoo, I think the extra week he has had since winning the All Star Mile has helped him,’’ Lees said.

“He had that exhibition gallop between races at Newcastle last week and he’s as good as we can get him.

“We had Le Romain start favourite in the Doncaster four years ago but he had a tough run and finished down the track (15th to It’s Somewhat).

“Sense Of Occasion ran the same year and finished third then backed up and ran third to Winx in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

“But I would say Mugatoo is the best chance our stable has had of winning the Doncaster.’’

Lees hasn’t ruled out giving Mugatoo his chance in the $4 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) at Randwick on April 17 but his main focus for now is the feature Randwick mile on Saturday.

Sky Lab (light blue) goes down narrowly to Mo’unga in the Rosehill Guineas. Photo: Mark Evans/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

Perry said Sky Lab has trained on well since his narrow loss to Mo’unga in the Rosehill Guineas last start.

Sky Lab will have his final serious workout for the Derby with stablemate Olympic Gaze on Newcastle’s Broadmeadow course proper early on Tuesday morning.

“The club (Newcastle Jockey Club) is good like that, we can get use of the course proper for those horses in the big races,’’ Perry said.

“But Sky Lab won’t need to do a lot of work this week, he’s had a good grounding for the Derby.

“His Rosehill (Guineas) effort was very good, I think that run will improve him and the 2400m might suit him better.’’

Payne is also hopeful Olympic Gaze will squeeze into the Derby field while he nominated the David Payne-trained filly Montefilia as the one to beat.

“Olympic Gaze is a tough three-year-old and will stay a strong 2400m.’’ Perry said.

“But I’m wary of David’s filly (Montefilia). Her run to finish third in the Rosehill Guineas was super.’’

Originally published asNewcastle could be home for Derby and Doncaster winners

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