Kris Lees considers Invincible Gem is his best chance of snaring a feature success at his home track Newcastle Gold Cup meeting on Friday.
Lees will have representatives in all four Group 3 events – the $175,000 Gold Cup (2300m), $150,000 Cameron Handicap (1500m), $150,000 Spring Stakes (1600m) and $150,000 Tibbie Stakes (1400m). It’s the latter race which he feels provides him with the opportunity to add to Fine Bubbles’ victory in the 2014 edition of the Tibbie.
Lees nominated last year’s NJC Spring Stakes winner Invincible Gem for four races – the Tibbie and also Cameron at Newcastle along with the Group 1 George Main Stakes (1600m) and Bill Ritchie Handicap (1400m) at Royal Randwick on Saturday – before deciding on his local fillies and mares’ feature.
“She is in great order and I’m sure is going to be very hard to beat,” he said. Brenton Avdulla, successful on Invincible Gem in last year’s Spring Stakes (run at Randwick), is back on the mare for her Tibbie assignment.
Invincible Gem, unplaced only twice from 11 starts to date, has returned in brilliant form. She beat stablemate Le Romain first-up in the Group 2 Missile Stakes (1200m) at Randwick on August 5 before finishing third (after being held up for a run at a vital stage in the straight) to Happy Clapper in the Group 2 Tramway (1400m) at the same track on September 2.
Lees has four Tibbie acceptors; the others being Zestful (Tye Angland), Skylight Glow and first emergency Princess Posh. He has not declared riders for the latter pair, with Skylight Glow also engaged at Randwick on Saturday.
“Zestful is going terrific, but is probably some risk at the 1400m, whilst Princess Posh is a place chance if she gets a run,” Lees said. “I’ll wait until the morning before deciding where to go with Skylight Glow.”
Should Lees wait for Randwick on Saturday with Skylight Glow, Princess Posh will be elevated into the field. A recurrence of feet issues forced Lees to scrap Newcastle Gold Cup plans for Singing, but he will still have three representatives – Admiral Jello (Corey Brown), Wahng Wah (apprentice Rachel King) and Doukhan (Avdulla).
“All three have chances,” Lees said. “I’ve probably got a slight leaning to Admiral Jello, as I’m putting blinkers back on him and taking winkers off. The 2300m on the big track is going to really suit him.
“Wahng Wah is in great form and has a good turn of foot at the end of her races, whilst Doukhan can improve on his recent first-up fourth at Randwick at his first start in more than 12 months.”
Lees runs topweight Sound Proposition (Blake Shinn) in the Cameron, most likely en route to the Group 1 Epsom Handicap (1600m) at Randwick on September 30. The former New Zealander is unbeaten from two starts – both at Randwick – since joining Lees’s team.
“I’ve kept him for the Cameron since he scored over 1800m at Randwick in late July, and he’s going well,” Lees said. “He has to give at least 3kg to all his rivals, and the 1500m may be a shade short, but he’ll run well.”
Lees has chosen to run Whispered Secret in the Spring Stakes rather than the $200,000 Group 2 Tea Rose Stakes (1400m) at Randwick on Saturday, and is expecting sharp improvement.
One of only two fillies in the race, Whispered Secret scored over 1600m at Randwick in April (when prepared by James Cummings) and resumed for Lees when seventh to Formality in the Group 2 Furious Stakes (1200m) there on September 2: “She is looking for the mile now, and is drawn to get a nice run,” Lees said.