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First Melbourne runner for Ballina trainer

Ballina trainer Stephen Lee will break new ground when Espiritu lines up at Caulfield.

Espiritu will be be Lee’s first runner in Melbourne when she contests the Lu Simon Builders Handicap (1100m) on Saturday.

Lee has been a regular visitor to Brisbane since moving to Ballina in the 1980s but has never headed further south than Sydney to race a horse.

Espiritu was dispatched to Mornington with Lee’s foreman Trent Greentree three weeks ago, ironically in search of firm tracks.

The Caulfield track was in the heavy range on Thursday, although if the rain stays away the track should improve into the soft category.

“We sent her down there to get away from the wet tracks in Brisbane and we’ve struck a heavy track, but it might dry up a bit,” Lee said.

“She doesn’t handle shifty ground but we thought we’d give her a go down there.

“She’s got a good record on firm tracks and last time she had to work hard from a wide gate and knocked up a bit.”

Espiritu hasn’t raced since finishing ninth at Doomben on March 11 which followed a second placing at the same track the previous month.

The six-year-old has won seven of her 25 starts, all right-handed.

Lee said this campaign was likely to be Espiritu’s last before she is retired.

Lee has been receiving glowing reports from Greentree since Espiritu’s arrival at Jerome Hunter’s Mornington stables.

He said the mare had settled in well to her new surrounds and her work this week in the lead-up to Saturday’s race had been good.

Lee hasn’t ruled out sending Espiritu across to Adelaide for a stakes race if she performs well on Saturday.

“We’re treading water at the moment,” Lee said.

“A trip to Adelaide is not out of the question but we’ll see how she goes at Caulfield first.”

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