By Brad Gray
Le Romain launches his spring campaign in Saturday’s $200,000 Group Two Missile Stakes (1200m) at Royal Randwick which will put him in the shop window for slot holders in The Everest.
The three-time Group One winner beat Chautauqua in a memorable Canterbury Stakes duel over the autumn and Kris Lees has little doubt that the five-year-old has returned as well as ever.
“He has had two nice trials and has pleased us in everything he has done so far so I think he is in for a good preparation. He has certainly got some improvement in him off the back of Saturday but he’ll still race well,” Lees said.
“He normally races on speed but there is a lot of pressure in the race so from barrier 8 I’d say he’d be midfield or in the second half.
“There has been some preliminary discussions around The Everest with a couple of parties but it will come down to if they want him and then whoever is first in. Understandably, a few (slot holders) are keeping their powder dry to see how horses come up.”
Lees’ track rider and ex-jockey Mathew Scorse has ridden Le Romain in all of his work since his autumn three-year-old campaign and gave punters an insight into how the Hard Spun gelding feels ahead of his resumption.
“The horse is the ultimate professional. I say to Kris every preparation that he is going a bit better and I’ll say the same again this time,” Scorse said.
“When I do a track gallop on him they say it looks like I’m going half pace and then they look at their clocks and I’m running beautiful sectionals.
“One thing you can guarantee with this horse is that the moment he steps onto the race track he’ll give 110%. We have formed a great bond now. He’s a great horse to work with.”
Scorse rode for the Lees stable as an apprentice, and with plenty of success, but was forced to give the game away after he became too heavy.
“I miss riding a hell of a lot. I’d give anything to ride a horse like Le Romain in a race but I’m happy to go along and do what I do now,” Scorse said.
The Lees yard will also be represented in the Missile Stakes by Invincible Gem, arguably the most improved horse in Sydney over the spring. She progressed from a Canterbury maiden at a night meeting to run a narrow second to Inference in the Group One Randwick Guineas.
“I think she is in for a great preparation too. She mightn’t be that well placed here at weight for age but she is ready to go and will revert back to mares company after this so it’s a nice stepping stone for her,” Lees said before adding, “The Golden Pendant is her first aim this spring.”
Launch Code will be out to build on his impressive Wyong win last start and Lees predicts that the Smart Missile four-year-old will get a very similar run from the inside draw.
“He has maintained his form and most importantly, has a soft barrier which is very important for him to get cover. The race looks to set up very nicely for him,” Lees said.
Meanwhile, new recruit Artlee could make his long-awaited return in the $150,000 Group Three Show County Quality (1200m) on August 19.
“We are just going to see how he comes out of his latest trial. He has had a long time off so we’ll decide if he needs another trial or not to go to the races,” said Lees.