A little bit of luck is all trainer Kris Lees believes Clearly Innocent needs to overcome a wide barrier in the Group 1 $1.5m Stradbroke Handicap (1350m) at Doomben on Saturday.
Clearly Innocent drew barrier twenty when the Stradbroke Handicap field of sixteen plus five emergencies was released on Wednesday morning but will jump from fifteen if all the reserves fail to gain a start.
Lees immediately had to step back when the twenty marble rolled out but after some consideration said that it wasn’t the worse barrier Clearly Innocent could have drawn and with his share of luck it could play in his favour.
“When you see 20 come out you are initially concerned but when you properly analyse it, he will come in to 15, it is a race that is likely to have solid tempo,” Lees told racing.com.
“To be fair I would prefer to be there than barrier one, I don’t get too concerned about barrier draws, I let the jockeys worry about that.
“It is a good field, he will need a lot of luck and if he does he will be right in the race.”
Clearly Innocent is going into the Stradbroke Handicap as a drifting favourite after receiving the visitor’s draw and on Thursday morning was marked at $5 with Ladbrokes.com.au.
The wide gate is not the only hurdle that Lees has to overcome after Clearly Innocent was promoted to be the top weight with 57kg after trainer Darren Weir decided not to run the original top weight Black Heart Bart in the Stradbroke Handicap.
The Stradbroke Handicap was also scheduled to be run at its traditional venue at Eagle Farm over 1400m but was transferred to Doomben over the reduced distance of 1350m after the Eagle Farm surface was deemed to be substandard for Group 1 racing because of the way it raced on Kingsford-Smith Cup Day on May 27.
Lees was one of a handful of trainers who would have preferred to stay at Eagle Farm after Clearly Innocent handled the shifty sand surface comfortably with a three lengths win over Jungle Edge in the Group 1 $700,000 Darley Kingsford-Smith Cup (1300m).
“He handled that surface at Eagle Farm, whereas a lot of horses didn’t so if we are talking self-interest, we would have preferred to stay there,” Lees said.
“Certainly the dynamics have changed a little, we have gone from thinking we would be going to a Stradbroke at Eagle Farm to now Doomben, 57kg and a wide gate.”
Lees is happy with the condition of Clearly Innocent going into the Stradbroke Handicap and said that he used a gallop on Wednesday morning at the Gold Coast just to maintain the five year old’s fitness levels.
“He had a gallop on the course proper at the Gold Coast on Wednesday morning, he worked really well, he has just maintained his fitness, he got up here pretty fit,” Lees said.
“He is in good order. I haven’t done a lot with him, he has raced every two weeks and is spot on.”
Clearly Innocent is chasing a hat trick of wins with Hugh Bowman in the saddle again and prior to winning the Kingsford-Smith Cup scored a resounding win in the Listed $150,000 Luskin Star Stakes (1300m) at Scone’s Metropolitan meeting on May 13.
The Chris Waller trained Mackintosh has been well supported in Stradbroke Handicap betting at Ladbrokes.com.au to produce a good first up run at $7 just ahead of his consistent stablemate Counterattack at $7.50 and the Darren Weir trained Ulmann at $8.50.