By 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.