Published 4 May 2022


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The final piece in the jigsaw puzzle regarding riding engagements for Saturday’s $440K The Archer at Callaghan Park has been finalised with Nathan Day engaged for Ventura Ocean (IRE).

This was announced on Monday afternoon when Newcastle trainer Kris Lees opted for Day to ride the Irish importation which pleased in his final Archer lead-up at Eagle Farm last Saturday.

“I was happy enough with his run when third there on Saturday”, Lees said from his home base at Newcastle.

At only his second run back from a five months spell, Ventura Ocean finished strongly for a closing 1.85 lengths third of 12 behind Bullifinch over 1400 metres.

Ventura Ocean is a dual Eagle Farm winner over 1200 and 1400 metres in February and March of last year.

While he faces a sharp class rise in The Archer (1300m), the fact that Lees, one of Australia’s most astute trainers has set him for Rockhampton’ richest race must be respected.

The engagement of senior jockey Nathan Day 48, epitomises the great vagaries of horse racing

Just last weekend, Day had three race rides at Mt Garnett in Far North Queensland winning a humble $13K Open Handicap (1200m) on Battle Cry while finishing well back on his other mounts.

It was a similar in The Archer for jockey Justin Stanley 41, (Crosshaven – Ben and JD Hayes) who just last week was riding at Wondai while riding a winner at Warwick today (Tuesday).

Stanley has ridden 1399 winners.

A ride in the prestigious The Archer at Rockhampton’s Callaghan Park racetrack was the furthest thing from Day’s mind and probably just a pipedream.

“I was thrilled to get the call up to ride Ventura Ocean for Kris Lees. It will be a great thrill to be a part of The Archer at Callaghan Park which is one of my favourite tracks”, Day said from Brisbane.

In a career which commenced in 1987 but was interrupted with lengthy spells through injuries and other business pursuits, Day has ridden 950 winners in Australia and overseas.

Over the last decade he has been one of the most successful of the “fly-in” jockeys who regularly service racing in Rockhampton’s TAB race meetings.

The Lees stable will also be represented in The Archer by Gem Song, the GROUP 3 winner of the $161,000 Newcastle Newmarket (1400m) in March, 2021.

“Gem Song is a horse who has had two careers really. He finished fourth in a Doomben Cup and later in 2019 was placed in two GR 2 races”, Lees said.

Furthermore, Gem’s Song finished fourth in the GR 1 Epsom (1600m) behind Kolding.

“After finishing last in the $7.5 Million Golden Eagle (November 2019) it was determined he had injured a suspensory ligament and was turned out. He did not undergo surgery”, Lees said.

As if fate decreed Gem Song was one of many horses his owner subsequently put up for sale and Lees had such a huge opinion of the gelding that he and stable clients subsequently purchased him.

It was a fortuitous decision, as Gem Song has since won the Newcastle Newmarket and two starts back took out the $161K GF 3 Star Kingdom Stakes (1200m) on his home track.

Gem Song will be ridden by Newcastle hoop Aaron Bullock 31, who has ridden 581 race winners of which 168 have been for the Kris Lees stable.

Both Gem Song and Ventura Ocean will travel north from the Lees’ Gold Coast satellite stable on Wednesday.

In early betting Gem Song is an $11 chance while Ventura Ocean is at $15 with Apache Chase the $4 favourite for The Archer.

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