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Lees impressed with Rustic Steel’s Big Dance moves

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“It’s worked. It really has.”

You could call Novocastrian Kris Lees a little biased having trained Rustic Steel to win the inaugural $2m Big Dance (1600m) on Tuesday 1 November.

But, he declared the race day a success.

With David Bowie’s Let’s Dance blaring in the background, Lees said it was great to see so many people at Royal Randwick and, more importantly, that they had races to care about and not just a sideshow to racing elsewhere in the country.

“A great crowd, not only that they made all the races nearly Saturday prizemoney so we didn’t have the mass scratchings we had last year,” he said.

“There was a lot of scratchings in 2021 because we were racing for a lot less.

“We had pretty much a true rail whereas last year was 10m and it was an opportunity to scratch.”

Rustic Steel overcame an interrupted preparation into the Big Dance, a setback prior to his planned second-up run meant Lees had to reset.

He got back on track with an improved performance in the Five Diamonds Prelude a couple of weeks ago and with a gem of a Nash Rawiller ride was able to hold off the challenge of Cisco Bay to score his biggest victory, with Sibaaq in third.

Lees admitted to a case of the early crow when the gelding burst to the front and was relieved when he held on.

“He got a lovely ride from Nash, he had plenty of horse underneath and got him out in clear air when they straightened up,”’ he said.

“I knew he would be strong, I was a little concerned the last 100m but he had enough in the tank.

“I went off a touch early and I started to pull back a bit that last 50m.”

The Big Dance was made up of Country Cup winners from around NSW over the past 12 months and Rustic Steel has had his ticket since May.

Lees said that was a bonus as he was able to target the race knowing he’s assured a start.

“He qualified through the Scone Cup and that was on a six-day turnaround on the back of winning the Coast,’’ he explained.

“So, we put him away with this race in mind.

“We’ve got a base either end of the state and we try to target the right races.

“It’s a thrill to have four runners in it but it’s a bigger thrill to win it.”

While there was jubilation with Rustic Steel’s win, Lees’s more favoured runner Hosier finished last after a slow start and a torrid run.

He said it was a case of the horse having to work too hard from the wide gate.

  • Ray Hickson

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