Kris Lees has completed easily his most successful season in terms of winners and is back at work readying his team as the spring approaches.
Lees took a short family break and returned home last weekend to see his 2017-18 tally soar to 192 winners (including a dead-heat) with a double at Monday’s Kempsey TAB meeting. That figure eclipsed last year’s number of 161, and his horses earned just over $8.4 million; not far short of the previous season’s record $9m (when he won four Group 1 races).
Lees was the fifth leading trainer in Australia last season (behind Darren Weir, Chris Waller, Team Hayes and James Cummings), third in New South Wales (behind Waller and Cummings), fifth in Sydney (with 42 wins) and won the NSW country premiership (with 86 wins).
“It was an excellent season for the stable, although I would have liked to have won a few more feature races (he had seven Group 1 placings),” Lees said.
“We’ve got a nice mix of established older horses and promising younger horses coming through to begin the new season.”
Stable stalwart and triple Group 1 winner Le Romain is one of a number of Lees’s horses set to trial at Gosford on Monday.
The now six-year-old was placed at his last three starts in Group 1 company – second in the All Aged Stakes (1400m) at Randwick on April 21, third in Doomben Ten Thousand (1200m) on May 12 and second in Kingsford-Smith Cup (1350m) at Doomben on May 26 – before resting.
Le Romain ran second in an 800m trial on the Beaumont track last week and Lees is looking at resuming the $2.7m earner in the Group 3 Show County Quality (1200m) at Randwick on August 18.
“There are plenty of weight-for-age options for him after that,” he said. “He could go to Melbourne for the Memsie Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield on September 1.”
Talented sprinter Tactical Advantage, who made such a stunning debut for his new trainer in the July Sprint (1100m) at Randwick on July 21, is not being rushed.
“He’ll go back to a Benchmark (95) Handicap over 1100m at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday week,” Lees said. “He went up seven Benchmark points (87 to 94) for that Randwick win, but was certainly impressive.”
Sense of Occasion, Graff, Guard of Honour, Gem Song and Miss Fabulass are others scheduled to trial at Gosford on Monday. Three-year-olds Graff and Miss Fabulass are nearing resumptions.
Graff, a son of Star Witness, is unbeaten from two starts; the latest in the Clarendon Stakes (1300m) at Hawkesbury’s metropolitan status stand-alone meeting on April 28. He will resume in the Group 3 San Domenico Stakes (1100m) at Rosehill on August 25.
Frankel filly Miss Fabulass, the daughter of Lees’ former star mare Samantha Miss, has raced only once when an eye-catching close second to Cristobal in a 2YO Fillies’ Maiden (1100m) at Rosehill on February 28. She may resume in a 3YO Maiden Handicap (1100m) at Canterbury on August 15.
Another promising three-year-old Smart Melody is also back in work and being aimed toward at least some of the races during the Darley Princess Series, which begins with the Group 2 Silver Shadow Stakes (1200m) at Randwick on August 18. Like Graff, the Smart Missile filly is unbeaten from two starts late in her two-year-old season (at Newcastle and Canterbury).
Prized Icon has trialled twice at home – over 900m on July 12 and 1000m last Friday – and may resume in the Spring Preview Handicap (1400m) at Rosehill on Saturday week. Lees feels suitable targets for him are the Group 2 Hill Stakes at on September 29 and Group 3 Craven Plate a fortnight later. Both races will be run at Randwick over 2000m at weight-for-age and carry $500,000 purses.