Special Reward bidding to prove dual-purpose star for Lees

Kris Lees has a dual purpose with Special Reward at Royal Randwick on Saturday.

Not only he is looking to win the Group 3 Southern Cross Stakes (1200m) for a third time, but is keen to see the former Western Australian sprinter stamp himself as a candidate for further black type glory on home turf in a few weeks.

"I think he's an ideal horse for the Newcastle Newmarket," Lees said this afternoon, discussing the Group 3 7 f sprint at Broadmeadow on March 6, which he won for the first time last year with now retired Princess Posh.

Lees landed the Southern Cross (formerly Frederick Clissold Handicap) in 2004 with Britt's Best (Larry Cassidy) and again 13 years later with his triple Group 1 winner Le Romain (Hugh Bowman).

A four-year-old son of Demerit, Special Reward won six of his first 10 starts before being purchased by Australian Bloodstock last year and joining Lees' stable.

He has raced twice for his new trainer, finishing sixth on debut for Lees at Rosehill Gardens on November 2 in a Benchmark 88 Handicap (1100m) as a $3.60 favorite.

He was then freshened and, after winning trials at Wyong and on the Beaumont track in December, again started favorite ($2.90) when runner-up to Southern Lad in a Benchmark 94 Handicap (1200m) at Randwick on January 1 after making the running.

"Special Reward  is one win from one start on soft ground, but has never raced on a heavy track," Lees said.

"You can never be sure until they but gives the impression he will handle it okay.

"I have given him plenty of time between his first-up run and Saturday's race, and he is in terrific order.

"The Southern Cross looks a nice race for Special Reward, especially coming in on the limit (53kg).

Brenton Avdulla, who partnered Princess Posh in last year's Newcastle Newmarket victory, rides Special Reward for the first time on Saturday.

Avdulla also rides Regimental Band, who kicks off a new campaign in a very interesting Group 2 Light Fingers Stakes (1200m) for three-year-old fillies.

The I Am Invincible filly hasn't started since finishing third against the "boys" in the Listed Springtime Stakes (1400m) at Flemington on November 9, and won a 4 1⁄2 f Newcastle trial on January 29.

"This won't be easy to win, but she has a place chance and will take improvement out of the race," Lees said.

Two-year-olds Fall On A Star (Christian Reith), who will race in blinkers, and Snitzari (Rachel King) represent the stable in the Listed Lonhro Plate (1000m).

"They are both nice fillies, and I'm expecting them to run well," Lees said.

"Fall On A Star (by Zoustar) ran sixth in the Gimcrack Stakes at Randwick last October at her only start, and appreciated the blinkers when she easily won a trial at home late last month.

"Snitzari (by Snitzel) also impressed in winning a Wyong trial (in which Fall On A Star ran third without blinkers) on January 13."

Lees also accepted with Snitzari at Eagle Farm on Saturday, but she is racing at Randwick.

Mongolian Wolf (Nash Rawiller) completes Lees' Randwick team in the Benchmark 88 Handicap (1600m).

He was a late closing third to Romani Girl in a Benchmark 88 Handicap (1500m) there on February 1 at his first run this preparation.

"He can handle heavy ground, but the only concern might be that he is now looking for longer than 1600m," Lees said.

Blinkers go on Chilly Cha Cha at Canterbury tomorrow night, and Lees is anticipating a good performance from the mare.

Stable apprentice Louise Day will ride her in the Benchmark 70 Handicap (1550m) against her own sex, reducing her weight from 134lbs to 58kg.

"She has had only the one run back, and can definitely improve. She has a good second-up record and is going well."

Lees also considers Bedivere (Brenton Avdulla) can figure in the Benchmark 70 Handicap (1900m).

"He ran really well at Kembla Grange second-up late last month in a Class 2 Handicap (1500m), and this distance is more to his liking," he said.

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