Kris Lees and Melbourne jockey Ben Melham again will join forces on Saturday, chasing another feature Royal Randwick 1600m triumph. Lees has confirmed Melham’s booking for Prized Icon in the $3 million The Star Doncaster Mile on Day 1 of The Championships.
The pair teamed in December 2016 to land the Group 2 Villiers Stakes over the Doncaster course with roughie Sense Of Occasion. Melham also won last year’s Golden Slipper Stakes at Rosehill Gardens (for Warwick Farm trainer Gary Portelli) on She Will Reign; his sole Sydney Group 1 success to date from only nine rides.
Lees has won 14 Group 1s and Melham 13, whilst four-year-old Prized Icon ($35 on TAB fixed odds) already is a dual winner at racing’s elite level; the 2016 Champagne Stakes (over the Doncaster 1600m) and 2500m Victoria Derby at Flemington later the same year.
Lees accepted with mare Invincible Gem ($26) but he has ruled out Clearly Innocent and Sound Proposition.
“We’ll keep Clearly Innocent for the All Aged Stakes ($600,000 1400m Group 1) at Randwick on April 21,” Lees said.
“Sound Proposition pulled up with cardiac arrhythmia at Rosehill last Saturday for the second time this preparation. He will have a number of tests before any future decisions are made.”
Lees will have unlucky Rosehill Guineas third Furore (Brenton Avdulla, $7) and Le Romain (Glyn Schofield, $51) running in other Group 1 features on the opening day of The Championships. Furore contests the $2m Harrolds Australian Derby (2400m), and Le Romain has his second run this preparation in the $2.5m Darley T J Smith Stakes (1200m).
“Furore is in great order and ready for the Derby, and Le Romain runs in the TJ en route to the All Aged a fortnight later,” Lees said.
Promising filly Chilly Cha Cha (Jason Collett) contests the $200,000 Group 3 Adrian Knox Stakes (2000m) as her final trial for the $1m Group 1 Australian Oaks (2400m) there a week later on Day 2 of The Championships. He is also likely to run both Admiral Jello and Doukhan in Saturday’s $300,000 Group 2 Chairman’s Quality (2600m).
Lees has locked away a number of jockeys for Saturday week’s $500,000 Polytrack Provincial Championships Final (1400m) at Randwick, but is yet to finalise bookings. He has qualified six of the 15 runners, winning three of the five heats (Just Dreaming at Wyong on March 3, Serene Miss at Gosford on March 17 and Princess Posh at Newcastle last Saturday).
His other qualifiers are placegetters Bastia (Hawkesbury), Tawfiq Boy (Kembla Grange) and Kool Vinnie (Newcastle). Just Dreaming is currently the $3.50 Final favourite with TAB.com.au. Lees finished second in the inaugural 2015 Provincial Championships Final with Electric Power, then finished first and second (Danish Twist and Powerline) in 2016.