As with rival trainers, Kris Lees isn’t going to Royal Randwick on Saturday expecting to stop Winx’s freakish winning spree. Nonetheless, the performance of his triple Group 1 winner Le Romain will have a major bearing on his spring program.
Le Romain (James McDonald) steps up to 1600m for the first time in 12 months when he meets Winx in the $500,000 Group 1 wfa Colgate Optic White Stakes where he is at $17 on TAB fixed odds.
“Obviously, I’m not thinking we can beat Winx,” Lees said. “But I’ll be pretty disappointed if Le Romain can’t run a place behind her.
“He is in really good order, and has a lovely inside draw to be given a good run in the race. How he performs will determine whether we go on to the Epsom Handicap over the same course in a fortnight.”
Le Romain has been given 58kg in the $1m Group 1 Epsom – and two of his three victories at racing’s elite level have been achieved at the 1600m (the first in the 2016 Randwick Guineas and later that year in the Cantala Stakes at Flemington; both at double-figure odds).
The six-year-old carried 61kg, with McDonald up, to a first-up victory in the Group 3 Show County Quality (1200m) at Randwick on August 18, then had no luck, with Winx’s jockey Hugh Bowman aboard, when forced to race wide with 59kg from an awkward draw and seventh to Comin’ Through in the Group 2 Tramway Stakes (1400m) at Randwick on September 1.
“He has taken no harm at all from that run, and is in really good order,” Lees said.
Le Romain hasn’t contested a 1600m race since finishing unplaced in Humidor’s Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes at Flemington last September. His spring campaign was terminated and, after being brought home, underwent colic surgery.
Lees is hoping to have two strong chances – new acquisition El Dorado Dreaming (Corey Brown, $8) and Miss Fabulass (Kerrin McEvoy, $11) – in Saturday’s $200,000 Group 2 Tea Rose Stakes (1400m).
"El Dorado Dreaming has come to us in terrific order, but having just joined our stable it’s hard for me to assess how she will race first-up and whether she might need the run,” Lees said. “But clearly she is a high-quality filly.
“I have taken a crossover nose band off Miss Fabulass, and we’ll ride her more conservatively. That will give her the chance to finish off for the step up from 1200m to 1400m. She has trained on really well.”
Lees’s other Randwick runner is Milseain (Tim Clark, $34) in the Benchmark 85 Handicap (1600m), and he has made an important gear change on the Kiwi mare: “We’ll leave the ear muffs on her rather than just in the pre-parade,” he said. “She has got herself very worked up at both her runs so far for us.
Milseain, who had excellent New Zealand form before coming to Newcastle, finished eighth to Savatiano in the Listed Mona Lisa Stakes (1350m) at the Wyong Cup carnival on August 31.