Winter Challenge unlikely for returning Mugatoo

Trainer Kris Lees remains on weather watch with Mugatoo but admits the chances of the horse making his much-anticipated comeback in the Winter Challenge at Randwick are lengthening.

While the 2021 All-Star Mile winner enjoys wet ground, the Newcastle trainer is reluctant to run him first-up on a rain-soaked track.

Randwick was rated a heavy 10 on Wednesday and with rain forecast for the remainder of the week, it appears unlikely to improve.

“He is (in doubt). He loves heavy ground, but he is 14 months off the scene,” Lees said.

“We accepted today with a bit of a weather watch. If it was a (heavy) eight, I’d probably run but that is looking less likely from what I’m reading.”

Lees has been struggling to find the right combination of race and track conditions for Mugatoo’s return with plans to run him in Brisbane thwarted because the ground was too firm, while Sydney’s tracks have largely been at the other end of the spectrum.

Despite the setbacks, Lees remains unruffled and says he would prefer to send Mugatoo into the spring without a conditioning run, rather than risk impacting his confidence.

“I would have liked to have given him a run before the spring if possible but it’s not the end of the world if we don’t,” he said.

“The horse is very well and he has worked well but I’m just a bit guarded. I think he needs a bit of confidence and real testing ground is not the ideal thing.

“He has been a good horse to us so we will do the right thing by him.”

Mugatoo won the Winter Challenge two years ago before going on to finish fourth in Sir Dragonet’s Cox Plate four starts later, but he has not raced since injuring his tendon in last year’s Doomben Cup.

He is among 14 acceptances for Saturday’s Winter Challenge (1500m) for which the in-form Jojo Was A Man has opened a $3.70 favourite.

Oscar Zulu is on the second line of betting at $6, ahead of Mugatoo and Gold Trip at $8 apiece.

French import Gold Trip is slated to make a belated Australian debut having been controversially scratched from the Cox Plate after being ruled lame by vets, while a foot abscess kept him out of the autumn.

About RS NewsWire

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