Trainer Kris Lees’ knack for keeping older horses in a winning frame of mind will be given its latest examination at Rosehill on Saturday.
Lees will saddle up Motspur in the Mackinson D’Apice Lawyers Handicap (1350m), hopeful the 10-year-old can rebound from a first-up disappointment in the Ortensia Stakes at Scone.
A winner of the corresponding race 12 months beforehand, Motspur finished 10th of 13 in the 1110m Listed sprint behind Satin Shoes.
But Lees says he is willing to give the 12-time winner the benefit of the doubt on a track which offered little cushion by the time the Ortensia Stakes was run.
“The track got pretty firm by that stage,” Lees said.
“He was in the right spot but he didn’t quite let down. It was an even run.”
If any trainer can get the best out of a 58-start veteran, it is Lees.
He helped guide County Tyrone through a long career, which included a Sydney Cup win as a six-year-old and a Newcastle Cup placing as a 10-year-old.
“He swims a lot and I keep his gallops fairly sparing,” Lees said of Motspur.
“That’s basically the way he’s been trained for the past few years.”
Motspur started his racing career with a Hawkesbury victory in July 2005 and won his next three starts before suffering his first defeat in the Group One Galaxy during the Sydney autumn carnival nine months later.
“In some ways I’m a bit surprised he has kept going but he usually manages to win one race each campaign,” Lees said.
“It’s a competitive little race on Saturday but if he can find a nice spot he can be in the finish.”
Motspur, to be ridden by the in-form Jay Ford for the first time, takes on nine rivals in a race in which premier trainer Chris Waller has an impressive hand.
Waller will start Nocturnelle, Said Com and Tromso as part of an overall entry of 16 horses on Saturday as he closes in on another Sydney premiership and a metropolitan training record.