Mugatoo, the 2021 All-Star Mile champion, made a positive step in his progression back to the races when trialling at Muswellbrook on Wednesday morning.
The Kris Lees-trained British import has been out of action since last May, when he suffered a significant tendon injury in the Group 1 Doomben Cup (2000m).
After several months recovering on the sidelines, the now seven-year-old Henrythenavigator (USA) gelding returned to Lees’ Newcastle stables in early January.
“The vets are really happy with his tendon, you can’t even pick which leg so that’s always a good sign, you’re always guarded with tendon injuries,” Lees said on Mugatoo’s return to work in the new year.
While all signs pointed to a full recovery, perhaps even ahead of what was first feared, Lees was reluctant to predict when we might see the return of Mugatoo.
“There’s not really a timeframe, I find that probably locks us in, I prefer to let the horse see where he’s at and then set that plan for him,” he said.
With four months of strengthening work behind him, Mugatoo was given an easy trial over 1000m at Muswellbrook on Wednesday as he builds up for his return to the races. Kept out of trouble on the outside rear of the field by jockey Aaron Bullock, he came in 4.79 lengths seventh in the eight-horse open trial with all connections thrilled to see him back.
Mugatoo raced six times in England before being imported to Australia in 2019. He won his first three starts for owners Australian Bloodstock, the third being the Listed Canberra Cup (2000m) in March of 2020. He has gone on to win seven races since arriving in Australia and has also placed second in The Metropolitan (2400m) to Mirage Dancer in 2020 before running fourth in the Cox Plate (2040m), amassing nearly $3.4 million in prizemoney.
Aside from taking out the $5 million All Star Mile (1600m) last March, a highlight for Lees was finally winning his hometown Group 3 Newcastle Gold Cup (2300m) with Mugatoo in September 2020, a race which had so far eluded both him and his legendary father, the late Max Lees.
“I am very relieved and very grateful too. It’s not a time-honoured event for some but it’s our hometown Cup and it means a lot to a lot of people. Australian Bloodstock are all Newcastle boys so it is very rewarding and a great feeling,” Lees said at the time.
On missing the opportunity to go back-to-back in this year’s All Star Mile, Lees said: “It’s definitely disappointing, it’s a great concept and the ideal type of race for him, anyway, we might be there with him next year.”