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Handsome is as handsome does!

Whilst it’s clearly a different test going from thrashing moderate opposition in the country to contesting a Saturday race in town, Kris Lees isn’t underselling the prospects of a lightly-raced five-year-old by that name at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday.

Coming off a seven lengths' plus romp in a Class 1/Maiden Plate (2000m) at Taree on January 3, Handsome steps up to a Benchmark 72 Handicap over the same distance.

"It's a big jump in grade obviously, but it's the right time to try him in town," Lees said this morning.

"With only 1lbs over the limit, he should run well."

Stable apprentice Dylan Gibbons partnered the UK import in his runaway victory at Taree, but is on the suspended list and is back in action at Monday's Beaumont meeting at Newcastle.

Ironically, Kerrin McEvoy resumes from suspension to take the weekend mount.

Handsome  has raced only nine times for two wins and three placings; his Taree victory being his sole Australian success to date from only three starts since joining Lees' stable.

He resumed off a lengthy break when runner-up with 135lbs in a Benchmark 64 Handicap (1600m) at Wyong on December 8 (conceding the winner Oakfield Warpaint 13lbs), before thrashing his country opposition with 59kg.

Handsome drops to 121lbs on Saturday, and this morning was a $6.50 fourth favorite with TAB.com.au in an open affair.

Lees' only other Rosehill runner is French Marine (Tommy Berry) in another Benchmark 78 Handicap, but over 1350m.

"It's a tricky gate, albeit there are already three scratchings drawn inside him, bringing him in to eight in a field of 10," Lees said.

"He didn't have any luck in the straight when fifth at Canterbury last Friday night over 1200m.

"It was virtually a nothing run as a result, so there should be no problem backing him and his previous two performances this time back were good."

Stewards reported the gelding blundered on jumping at Canterbury, and was bumped on a couple of occasions by another runner when racing tight in the early stages of the home straight.

French Marine carried 135lbs to an easy first-up victory in a Benchmark 68 Handicap (1150m) at home on the Beaumont track before finishing second to Diamond Dealer (who scored again at Royal Randwick last Saturday) in a Benchmark 72 Handicap (1250m) at Canterbury on January 6.

He has carried 131lbs at his past two city starts, and drops 6lbs going up to a Benchmark 78 on Saturday.

Recent stable acquisition Tavi Time, an impressive Taree Maiden (1250m) winner on January 3, is Lees' sole acceptor for Saturday's Newcastle meeting.

But he won't be lining instead going back to Taree tomorrow attempting to make it back to back wins in a Class 1 Handicap (1400m), with Aaron Bullock aboard.

The Tavistock three-year-old was having only his second start and first for Lees when he ran at Taree earlier in the month.

. Sailor and The Bopper, both Andrew Mallyon mounts, shape as two excellent chances at Saturday's metropolitan fixture at the Sunshine Coast.

Sailor contests a No Metropolitan Win Handicap (1600m), and The Bopper tackles an Open Handicap (1000m).

Both are pre-post favorites - the latter at a dominant odds-on quote – and importantly they have had experience on the roomy Sunshine Coast circuit.

"Sailor is chasing three in a row after two midweek wins in Brisbane earlier this month, and now goes to a Saturday race," Lees said.

"He has trained on well since his Doomben midweek victory over 1 m on January 11 when he had a nice run from a favorable draw."

The Bopper, after overpowering his rivals for an easy Sunshine Coast win over the same 5 f on December turned in a remarkable performance from an outside draw when he made up a stack of ground to all but catch Archer's Paradox in a 4 1⁄2 f Quality at the Gold Coast on January 7.

"The Bopper has drawn poorly again (the outside in a field of on Saturday, and we'll ride him conservatively to give him the chance to finish off as he has done in his two recent Queensland starts," Lees said.

"He is thriving at our Gold Coast base, but I might bring him home after this run."


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