Le Romain can take another huge step toward becoming Kris Lees’s highest prizemoney earner by winning Saturday’s $3m The Star Doncaster Mile at Royal Randwick on Day 1 of The Championships.
And he will emerge as his trainer’s biggest Group 1 winner by doing so. Already a triple Group 1 winner – the same as Lees’s former star mares Lucia Valentina and Samantha Miss – Le Romain will lift his career earnings to just over $3.8m if he can snare a fourth victory at racing’s elite level on the opening day of The Championships.
Already a $2m plus earner, he then would be just over $500,000 shy of now retired Lucia Valentina’s earnings of $4,354,803 (seven wins and six placings from 30 starts).
With their three Group 1 victories each, Le Romain, Lucia Valentina and Samantha Miss ($1,750,760) have contributed nine of Lees’s 12 Group 1 titles; the others coming from County Tyrone (2) and Vitesse Dane.
And he is optimistic his brilliant four-year-old Le Romain can give him both a 13th and a Doncaster breakthrough in Australia’s premier “mile” handicap.
“You can never be too confident winning a race such as the Doncaster because it is generally a very tough race to win,” Lees said this morning. "This year is no exception. There are a host of chances and he (Le Romain) is one of them.
“We planned this preparation after he won the Cantala Stakes at Flemington last spring and everything has gone beautifully.
“He is in good order and great form, and Hugh (Bowman) no doubt will give him a great ride. Le Romain never disappoints us; I’m sure he will be hard to beat.”
Weights were raised 1kg at acceptance time on Tuesday, lifting Le Romain’s impost to 56.5kg.
Winx (last year) and dual winner Sacred Falls (2014) each carried that same weight to victory, whilst More Joyous (57.5kg in 2012) was the last Doncaster winner to carry more weight than Le Romain has to shoulder.
Two of Le Romain’s Group 1 victories have been at 1600m – and on both occasions he has started from barrier eight. Coincidentally, he has also drawn the same alley on Saturday, but will jump from seven if third emergency Top Of My List does not gain a start.
Lees has advised stewards that Le Romain will line up in the Doncaster without synthetic hoof filler in his near hind foot. "Everything is fine there now; he doesn’t need it,” he explained.
Lees, enjoying a stellar season (Clevedon Bay’s $150,000 Provincial Championships Qualifier success at Broadmeadow yesterday was his 92nd since August 1), has somewhat surprisingly had only one previous Doncaster runner.
That was in 2014 when import Slow Pace (Joaa Moreira) finished 13th at $31 to Sacred Falls on a heavy surface.
Understandably, $6 favorite Le Romain is Lees’s stable pick, but $51 outsider Sense Of Occasion (Corey Brown) also has his admirers. Whilst both horses are adept on wet ground, Lees does not want Randwick to become bottomless.
“Sense Of Occasion will be out the back, and is going to need a solid tempo to be able to give him a chance of picking them up in the straight,” he said. “But I’m happy with him, and we know he is proven when fresh.”
Lees has two other Championships Day 1 acceptors; Rosa Carolina, who is first emergency for the Group 3 P J Bell Stakes (1200m) and Face Like Thunder (Group 3 Adrian Know Stakes, 2000m). Melbourne ace Damien Oliver has been booked for both.
Rosa Carolina returned to winning form at Newcastle last Saturday and will line up, firstly if she secures a berth and, secondly, provided the track is not too heavy.
Zoffany filly Face Like Thunder, having won her last two starts at Quirindi and Tuncurry, steps up to city company in the traditional Oaks lead-up, the Adrian Knox.
“It’s rather unorthodox, admittedly, but at least she is going into Saturday’s race having won over the distance (2100m) at her last start at Tuncurry,” Lees said.
Lees lost his main ATC Oaks hope, former New Zealand filly Karavali, when she required a minor operation, and is hoping Face Like Thunder can fill the void.
“Realistically, though, she would have to run really well this weekend to consider backing her up in the Oaks (2400m) on Saturday week,” he said.