Beaten G1 Sydney Cup favourite back for new trainer

Formerly prepared by Ireland’s Joseph O’Brien, Cleveland will be making his debut for Newcastle trainer Kris Lees, but he will have a familiar jockey in Kerrin Mcevoy, who has ridden him in his only two Australian runs.

The six-year-old was part of O’Brien’s Sydney autumn carnival team and made a big impression at his first local start with a slashing fifth to Arapaho in the Group 1 Tancred Stakes (2400m).

It earned him favouritism for the Sydney Cup (3200m), but he was under riding a long way from home and stewards subsequently reported he had bled internally.

He resumes without a trial in Saturday’s 2000m race and if he can return to his best, McEvoy expects Cleveland to feature this spring.

“He’s a lovely horse and he was great that day having his first run out in Australia,” McEvoy said.

“I was pretty confident going into the Sydney Cup and he just had an off day. You can put a line through that.

“We’re lucky to have been able to keep him out here and if he can stay healthy and sound, he’s a horse to keep an eye on.”

McEvoy hasn’t been aboard Cleveland since the autumn but was encouraged by a recent chat with Lees about the stayer’s progress.

“I go into it a little bit blind, I haven’t been on him since, but I spoke to Kris briefly the other day and he’s happy with him,” he said.

“Kris said he’d come along nicely, and he’d been able to adjust to the Australian lifestyle pretty well.

“If he’s anywhere near top fitness then he’s going to run a nice race on Saturday.”

Lees and McEvoy combined to win the Group 3 Premier’s Cup (2000m) three years ago with Mugatoo, while Rachel King will be shooting for her fourth win in the past seven years and third in succession.

King partners with the Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott-trained Military Mission having won the corresponding race for the same stable aboard Dee I Cee in 2017, before teaming with Bjorn Baker to plunder the past two editions on Harpo Marx (2021) and Arapaho (2022).

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