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She might be coming off a maiden win but trainer Kris Lees is confident Kind Words is a horse capable of stepping up to Saturday’s Group 3 NZB Spring Stakes (1600m) at Newcastle.
The filly took a little longer to post her first win than most expected after her debut second to subsequent Group 1 winner Tropical Squall but Kris Lees said aside from her second-up failure she's progressing well.
Kind Words, $13 with TAB on Thursday, coasted to an easy win at Hawkesbury, albeit on a heavy track, just under two weeks ago and the three-year-old feature on her home track has always been on the radar.
"She raced at a high grade and it was good to get a maiden win with her,'' he said.
"It wasn't the weakest maiden, there was a bit of depth in the race I thought, and she put them away well.
"If she had every chance and got beaten it probably would be reassessed but it was always the plan to come here."
Newcastle's leading trainer has won the Spring Stakes once, but in the 2016/17 season it was run at Randwick and won by Invincible Gem.
He said while Kind Words, with the one win from five starts, has to prove herself she will have every chance to do that with barrier one.
"I think it will be an advantage to have a soft draw,'' he said.
"She looks to get a nice run stalking the speed, there's a little bit of pressure out wide, and a big spacious track will suit.
"Obviously now she's jumping a few grades but it's the right time to give her another opportunity at this level. She's a nice filly and she could easily reach this grade."
Lees' chances to win his maiden Hunter were dealt a blow when Rustic Steel drew the outside barrier in the $1m Newcastle Herald Hunter (1300m) but he's still expecting a solid performance.
The gelding, who had a huge 2022 with wins in The Coast, Scone Cup and the inaugural Big Dance, returned from almost a year off the scene with a slashing effort in the Sydney Stakes (1200m) on Everest Day.
Only one horse ran a faster last 600m than Rustic Steel, who clocked 32.90 (Punter's Intelligence), and that was subsequent Giga Kick Stakes winner Bella Nipotina.
"He had a bit of bone bruising I'd call it, nothing too severe. He came into work in the autumn and we just weren't happy with him so gave him a few months off,'' Lees said.
"I've been really happy with him this time, I wasn't surprised at all in his first-up run. He's in good order.
"Unfortunately the barrier draw dictates he'll be ridden similar again. I think he will be running well but it deflates our enthusiasm about him with the draw."
The plan for Rustic Steel is to progress to the Group 3 Festival Stakes (1500m) on December 2 then back up into the Group 2 $2m The Ingham (1600m) a week later.