Chilly Cha Cha is a $34 outsider for Saturday’s $1 million James Boag's Premium Group 1 Australian Oaks at Royal Randwick, but trainer Kris Lees has warned punters not to dismiss her lightly.
“On weights, it would appear she can’t beat Luvaluva,” Lees said. “But it is an Oaks and anything can happen.
“I was really happy with my filly’s close third (to Luvaluva and Pretty To Sea) in the Adrian Knox Stakes (2000m) last Saturday, and I’ve got no fears about backing her up.
"I’m also confident she will handle the rise from 2000m to 2400m.”
Lees has been patient with the New Zealand-bred filly, and has started her only eight times for four wins – on provincial and country tracks.
He didn’t take Chilly Cha Cha (Jason Collett) to town until she tackled Group 3 company when third in last Saturday’s Adrian Knox. She now meets Luvaluva 7kg worse; hence her double-figure odds.
“She kept coming to the line last Saturday; I think she’ll run really well again,” Lees said.
Lees has two runners – Admiral Jello (Grant Buckley) and Doukhan (Yusuke Ichikawa) - in the $2m Group 1 Schweppes Sydney Cup (3200m), and concedes they are rough chances at best.
“With prizemoney going up to $2 million, this is a lot better Sydney Cup field than usual,” he said. “You don’t often see a Melbourne Cup winner (Almandin) lining up. My two horses will have their work cut out, but I felt they ran reasonably well in last Saturday’s Chairman’s Quality (2600m).”
On a big day where he will have at least 14 runners at the second meeting of The Championships, he also has a Group 1 representative in the $1m Coolmore Legacy Stakes (1600m). He runs New Zealand mare Aide Memoire (Collett), who has been kept for this feature since her close eighth (beaten only 1.2 lengths) in the Group 1 Coolmore Classic (1500m) at Rosehill Gardens on March 17.
“She is going really well, but is crying out for a wet track,” Lees said. “It doesn’t look as though we’re going to get that.” His other Randwick runners are Danish Twist (Ben Melham) and Sugar Bella (Collett) in the Group 2 Sapphire Stakes (1200m) against their own sex.
Like Aide Memoire, Danish Twist hasn’t raced since her 10th (beaten just under two lengths) in the Coolmore, whilst Sugar Bella was beaten for the first time in five starts since joining Lees’s team, though brave when runner-up to Quilista in the Group 3 Birthday Card Stakes (1200m) at Rosehill on March 24.
“Danish Twist hasn’t won for a long time but is more than capable on her day, and Sugar Bella is in great form and continues to hold her condition,” Lees said.