Graff in the right gear for G1 Galaxy

By: Mandy Cottell Friday 22 March 2019

Kris Lees thought long and hard about whether to take blinkers off Graff for his Sydney return in the Group One Galaxy and is comfortable with his final decision not to tamper with the colt's gear.

Although it might have been a different outcome on another track.

Graff over-raced in blinkers at both his recent runs at Flemington and if Saturday's race was on a straight course Lees would have taken the shades off.

But he is convinced the gear will have the right impact on Saturday when Graff returns to a turning circuit.

"We decided to leave the blinkers on," Lees said.

"Originally we were going to take them off but it's a high-pressure race and he's coming back 100 metres and around a bend.

"He just probably raced a bit fierce his two runs down the straight and I think if I ran him down the straight again I'd take the blinkers off."

Despite his manners, Graff performed admirably in both Flemington runs finishing fourth to stablemate In Her Time in the Lightning Stakes and filling the same position behind Sunlight in the Newmarket Handicap.

Lees has no doubt Graff's Group One grounding against older horses in Melbourne will hold the three-year-old in great stead for his assignment against a host of class sprinters in the Galaxy headlined by Redzel, Pierata and Ball Of Muscle.

"He's raced in the two biggest sprint races in the country so he's up to that level," Lees said.

"He's come back in good order. He had a solid gallop on Tuesday and I was pleased with his work.

"Most important he's got a soft draw."

Lees is also hoping Saturday's meeting will give him a clearer guide on his Sydney Cup chances with Big Duke and Doukhan stepping out in the N E Manion Cup (2400m) in a bid to join stablemate Red Cardinal on the two-mile trail.

Big Duke won the corresponding race two years ago for then-trainer Darren Weir before going on to claim the Chairman's Handicap and finish third to Polarisation in the Sydney Cup.

Both Lees-trained horses appreciate soft ground and Big Duke in particular looks to have returned in great heart after a disappointing spring, finishing runner-up to Red Cardinal over 1900m first-up and closing late for sixth to Hiyaam in the Randwick City Cup (2000m).

"Both runs have been quite good, they just didn't go quick enough for him at his most recent run but he's trained on the right way and I expect him to race well," Lees said.

"Doukhan is a 10-year-old but he loves the wet and if he runs well it will get him into a Sydney Cup."

The $2 million Sydney Cup (3200m) is at Randwick on April 13.