Swan's baby leads Lees' Newmarket charge

6 min read
Longtime Lees Racing foreman Cameron Swan has played a big part in the career of In Her Time and the competitive mare faces two stablemates in the G1 Newmarket Handicap.

Lees Racing's longtime foreman Cameron Swan struggles to split the stable's three G1 Newmarket Handicap hopes but clearly has a soft spot for In Her Time (Time Thief), a mare he has helped transform from "a nervous and scared little horse" into a multiple G1-winning sprinter.

Swan has been with the Lees stables for more than 20 years, starting as a talented but "heavyweight" apprentice and stuck around to become one of the stable's leading hands, but he first spotted In Her Time when the filly was under the care of former trainer Ben Smith at Broadmeadow.

"I have been riding her since she was a 2-year-old." - Cameron Swan

"I have been riding her since she was a 2-year-old," said Swan, who would rise early to ride the talent at 4am before starting work with Lees. "She was a bit of a handful to start with, she was a real nervous and scared little horse, but as she has got more mature, she has become a real pleasure to work with."

Cameron Swan aboard In Her Time

When Smith was banned last year In Her Time had already established herself as a G1 winner but hasn't missed a beat, adding to her record with consistent efforts at top level.

"Everything has continued to run pretty smooth with her," said Swan. "She just never runs a bad race, and she has ran a place in 10 of her last 12 starts, all in stakes races, and the two times she missed a place were on wet tracks, which she just doesn't handle."

Will to win

Last start In Her Time produced a career best to beat a crack field in the G1 Lightning Stakes in which the 6-year-old showed tenacity Swan knows all too well.

"She is the ultimate competitor," Swan said. "If I walk her on her own to the pool and there is nothing in front of her, she will just dawdle, just be lazy, but if there is a horse 100m in front of us and she can see it, she has got to catch it. Same as when she is in the swimming pool; on her own she is as good as gold, but if there is something in front of her she has got to catch it."

"If there is a horse 100m in front of us and she can see it, she has got to catch it." - Cameron Swan

"She is good to handle, but there are plenty of horses that can run fast that don't have that grit and will-to-win, I think that's her best attribute."

Cameron taking In Her Time for a swim

Swan is entrusted with taking the Lees string to Melbourne and has overseen the day-to-day preparation of In Her Time from the Peter and Paul Snowden yard at Flemington.

"Anyone who works in this industry like I do, you pray to look after a horse like her, they take you to different races and instead of just watching these big races you are part of them," Swan said.

'Part of the furniture'

The time in the G1 spotlight is a reward for staffer for whom a passion for racing delivered a successful but short-lived career in the saddle.

"Weight was a constant battle for me, and it was from day one really," said Swan, who started at 15 with his uncle Kerry Walker, the trainer of G1 winners Dinky Flyer (NZ) (Balmerino {NZ}) and Cimarra (Whiskey Road {USA}).

"I didn't even get to ride out my apprenticeship." - Cameron Swan

"I didn't even get to ride out my apprenticeship. I was first apprenticed to my uncle and then I moved to Newcastle pretty early in my apprenticeship."

A stint with Cliff Brown helped Swan to his biggest personal success in the 1998 G2 Sandown Cup on Cheviot (Average Game), before he returned to the Lees yard in 2000, where the humble foreman says he is "part of the furniture."

That is playing down Swan's influence through a period of change at the stable, through Max Lees' passing in 2003 and the more recent success under Kris Lees, with superstars like Samantha Miss (Redoute's Choice) and Lucia Valentina (NZ) (Savabeel).

Lucia Valentina

The current crop of horses under Lees' care might be his strongest ever and two of the biggest threats to In Her Time are stablemates; the well-weighted 3-year-old Graff (Star Witness) and recent stable transfer Brave Smash (Jpn) (Tosen Phantom {Jpn}).

"If you lined them all up at level weights I wouldn't know who to pick, there isn't anything between them." - Cameron Swan

"If you lined them all up at level weights I wouldn't know who to pick, there isn't anything between them," Swan said. "But at the weights, with just 51kg on his back, he will be hard to beat."

"He (Graff) was a length behind In Her Time in the Lightning but he has improved a lot since that last run. He has come on and looks a lot better. We had him just ready for the 1000m the other day knowing that this was the race he is set for. He is a quality horse, and I think he is a superstar."

In Her Time taking out the Lightning S.

Brave Smash, at his third start for the stable after moving from Darren Weir, comes back in trip after a luckless seventh in the G1 Futurity Stakes and subsequently missing a spot in the All-Star Mile. .

"We haven't had him very long. His first-up run for us in the G1 CF Orr was good, and then I thought he should have won in the Futurity," Swan said. "He has had feet problems throughout his career, but he hasn't got those problems at the moment. He is feeling good, he is in a good mood and he worked terrific with Damien Oliver this week."

Still, despite the logical case for the two stablemates, there is little doubt where Swan's heart lies.

"I know it is a handicap, and that isn't an advantage for her being one of the highest rated runners in the race," he said. "But I think she has made the necessary improvement to cope with the weight. I think she will be right in it."