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  4. "Sook" Mugatoo content ahead of Saturday’s Group 1 Doomben Cup

"Sook" Mugatoo content ahead of Saturday’s Group 1 Doomben Cup

1223993.jpgBy Jordan Gerrans

Mugatoo is an All-Star Mile champion, a leading chance in Saturday’s Group 1 Doomben Cup and according to his stable – a big sook.

Multiple Group 1-winning horseman Kris Lees branded his stable star a “sook” playfully, but there is no doubting the six-year-old gelding has his own way within the Lees team.

Mugatoo has been to Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales to race since arriving in Australia and if he does not get his own way, in the way of having a mate to travel and house next to, he can be quite a handful.

Travelling foreman for the Lees team, Cameron Swan, can recall many a time when Mugatoo was left to his own devices and quickly showed his displeasure.

“He is a big boy so he can push you over quite easily if he is unhappy,” Swan explained.

The team have learnt to never leave him alone when on the road, including up to the Gold Coast this week ahead of the Doomben Cup, with Itz Lily holding his hand of late.

The curious thing is, Mugatoo isn’t wed to Itz Lily either, he is happy to have anyone by his side, as long as he has a companion wherever he goes.

“He is a bit of a sook,” Lees said with a laugh.

“He has got to have a mate next to him all the time, he does not like to travel alone and he needs to have a mate next to him in his box.

“He pals up pretty quickly with a mate and is ok.

“We swap them around; he goes through a few.

“He finds one and will stick with them, if he can.”

As the travelling foreman for the Lees stable, Swan has developed a close bond with the 2021 All-Star Mile winner, regularly making the trip interstate for the big race days.

When a horse like Mugatoo is taking out races worth $5 million for his connections, the Lees stable does whatever they can to make sure he is happy.

“If he is not with a mate, he can be a bit of a handful,” Swan said.

“He gets all excited and wonders where everyone is if he is left alone.

“Him and Itz Lily have been walking around together and hanging out a bit.

“We do not want any injuries for him leading into races, so we need to wrap him in cotton wool, as they say.”

Swan has been with the Lees team for over two decades, starting out as an apprentice rider as a 16-year-old with Kris’ father, before getting a little too heavy to complete his apprenticeship.

He will ride work and partner most of Lees’ horses as they travel around Australia.

Mugatoo (IRE)

20210518-mugato-3.jpgChestnut mare Itz Lily heads to the Group 3 Pam O’Neill Stakes over a mile for fillies and mares this Saturday at Doomben.

On Mugatoo, the Lees team think he has settled in well on the Gold Coast, coming up earlier in the week than some in the Doomben Cup to get some sun on his back and ready for the conditions.

Hoop Andrew Mallyon, who rides many of Lees’ runners in Queensland, as well as others for the Australian Bloodstock team, worked Mugatoo on Tuesday morning at the Gold Coast, with the experienced trainer pleased with what he saw.

“He has worked really well and is in good order as he will need to be, because it is a hot field,” Lees said.

“I think the five weeks between runs will be ideal for him, he really appreciates that type of set up.

“He had a bit of time out at our farm on the water walker, just a tick over trial to keep him up to the mark, but he is in pretty good order.”

The Group 1 Doomben Cup, to be run over 2000 metres, is a race Lees says he always looks forward to on the calendar, having won it four years ago with Sense Of Occasion in 2017.

He believes he has the right horse to do it again, explaining that he just needs some luck in running, which he is likely to receive from barrier one and with champion rider Hugh Bowman on board.

Lees says the 2021 edition of the Doomben Cup, as part of the 2021 TAB Queensland Winter Racing Carnival, is one of the strongest fields assembled for the race in sometime.

The leading Newcastle trainer Lees has increased his presence in Queensland with a Gold Coast satellite stable over the last four years.

The Queensland team is managed by Lees’ friend, Gold Coast trainer Mel Eggleston, which is where Mugatoo has called home over the last week.

“It works really well, Mel and the team do a great job up here, we speak every day,” Lees said.

“They send through work sheets, photos and videos of the horses.

“Now that COVID restrictions have relaxed a bit, I can get up here a little more often myself.

“It works well and we have had a little bit of success and hopefully it can continue.”

For the rest of the Lees runners, the trainer says Itz Lily is a consistent mare and will run a good race this Saturday while stable-mate Special Reward will appreciate getting to 1350 metres in the Group 3 BRC Sprint.

Click here for full details on the 2021 TAB Queensland Winter Racing Carnival feature races.