Kris Lees is yet to win a TAB Epsom Handicap but is confident he has a sound proposition to do so at Royal Randwick on Saturday. Lees will saddle former New Zealander Sound Proposition (Corey Brown) in the $1 million Group 1 feature and is excited about his prospects.
“I feel he’s got a really good chance; I’m very happy with him,” he said. “He is two from two at Randwick, including one over the Epsom course (1600m), and puts himself in the right spot in his races. With 54kg, he has definitely got a weight to be very competitive.”
Sound Proposition joined Lees’s barn after finishing 10th to his now stablemate Sense Of Occasion in the Group 1 Doomben Cup (2200m) in May, and has raced brilliantly at all three starts for his new trainer. He scored over the Epsom route on June 24 on heavy ground, then had no trouble on a firmer surface on July 22 when he again scored over 1800m at Randwick.
Lees then freshened Sound Proposition and he was responsible for an excellent effort when narrowly beaten in the Group 3 Cameron Handicap (1500m) at Newcastle on September 15. He carried 59kg and, after working early to get outside the leader (favorite Special Missile) before hitting the front near the 200m, was just caught by the lesser-weighted Got Unders, who had the drop on him in the run and had 5kg less. Adding further merit to Sound Proposition’s performance was that the Cameron was run in track record time.
Sound Proposition has a superb 1600m record. From nine starts over the Epsom trip, he has won on five occasions, including the Easter Handicap at Ellerslie in April last year when it carried Group 1 status (subsequently relegated to Group 2).
Lees has had only four Epsom runners; the latest last year when his triple Group 1 winner Le Romain finished fifth (with 55.5kg) to Hauraki. Lucia Valentina finished eighth (with 57.5kg) to Winx in 2015, whilst his inaugural Epsom representative Britt’s Best finished 16th to Clangalang in 2003.
The $151 shot Hidden Wonder has so far been Lees’s best Epsom performer, finishing fourth (beaten less than two lengths) to Captain Sonador in 2010. With three scratchings already, the Epsom has already been reduced to 11 starters after Egg Tart (eye irritation) was withdrawn.
It is the smallest Epsom line-up since 2006, when Racing To Win beat nine rivals. Lees also has Clearly Innocent (Premiere Stakes, 1200m) and Sense Of Occasion (Hill Stakes, 1800m) joining Sound Proposition at Randwick.
Both races are weight-for-age contests, and also carry Group 2 status and $500,000 in prizemoney. Lees is striving to clinch one of the last slots in the $10m TAB Everest (1200m) at Randwick on October 14 with Brisbane winter carnival Group 1 winner Clearly Innocent (Hugh Bowman).
“I have no doubt he will run well,” Lees said. “He has had a solid build-up for this race and his work in recent weeks has been as good as any since he came to me earlier in the year.”
Lees is forecasting a much better performance from Sense Of Occasion (Brown): “Nothing went right for him first-up, but he has continued to work well,” he said.
“I probably would have preferred Red Excitement to have run here rather than the Epsom to ensure a good speed, but irrespective Embley is likely to run along and Sense Of Occasion is in great order and is getting to a more suitable distance.”