IN THE FRAME: Sense Of Occasion, second from left, finishes third to Winx, right, and Hartnell, left, on Saturday. Picture: bradleyphotos成都夜总会招聘.auSENSE Of Occasion’s Newcastle owners weren’t sure if they would win another race with the horse before they asked local trainer Kris Lees to take him on midway through last year.
In nine starts for Lees, Sense Of Occasion has now won $969,190, including$400,000 for finishing third to Winx and Hartnell in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000 metres) on Saturday at Randwick. It followed $300,000 for third in the Doncaster a weekearlier in a career which has returned $1,267,020 in 32 starts.
“He’s been amazing,” part-owner Stephen Bilich said of Lees’ work with the $80,000 gelding. “We’ve got a cheque every time the horse has raced and to be honest with you, we weren’t sure we wereever going to win another race.We asked Kris to take the horse and he said he’dlove to, and he’s just transformed him.
“He’s just worked the horse out. He said from day one that he had a feeling the horse needs his runs spaced out, and that’s what he’s done and the horse has thrived.”
Ownership manager Anthony Hall and part-ownersLarry Curtis, Elaine Wragge, Derek Hall, David Blunden, Roddy Scott and Bilich all have ties to Newcastle.
“He’s pretty much a Newcastle horse which I think people are warming too as well, and they are getting behind him now,” Bilich said.
Bilich said the group had also profited fromSense Of Occasion’s underdog status in the betting ring.
“His Villiers win just stamped him as something out of the ordinary, but the press have never picked up on it,” he said.
“He’s been friendless in both his recent starts, which hasn’t worried us because we don’t mind a bet and we’ve had a nice time.”
A Brisbane winter campaign now beckons for Sense Of Occasion, which won the group 2 Villiers Stakes last December only a few weeks afterpart-owner and former Newcastle Jockey Club vice-chairman and life memberJoe Wragge died.
“There’s sadness involved because a good mate of ours, John Wragge, passed away last year,” Bilich said.
“He was the major shareholder in the horse. But his wife, Elaine, she is pretty proactive with it now and getting a thrill out of it.”
The owners are now eyeing even more success.
“That was his first attempt at weight for age on Saturday and he certainly stepped up to the plate,” Bilich said.
“No one was going to beat Winx, she’s the best horse in the world, and Hartnell is the second highest rated in .
“And [Jockey] Corey [Brown] thought he could havebeaten Hartnell, but he got held up at avital stage.”
Sense Of Occasion started with the now lateGuy Walter before stints with Joe Pride and Tony McEvoy.
“They just did things differently and it obviously didn’t agree with the horse,” Bilich said.
“We’ve got no axes to grind or anything like that, he just needed a change and Kris has just been amazing with him.
“Obviously, we’re just stoked.Every part of the way with Kris has been a pleasure and his communication is second to none.
“I’ve got horses with several different trainers, and I’ve got a small breeding operation, so you get to see how they all do things,but of all of them, I’ve got Kris right up there.”
The success for the Newcastle ownership group originated from a lucky call on theirway home from the 2012 Inglis n Easter Yearling Sale.
“New Zealand bloodstock agent Paul Beamish put us onto him,” Bilich said.
“We went to the sale and had a look at him. Paulthought he’d go for about $160,000, which is more than we wanted topay, and on the way home Anthony got a call saying he was up to 70 something and do you want to have bid.
“We said to go to 80 and not a cent more and he was knocked down to us for that.”