Kris Lees has labelled tomorrow’s Australian Bloodstock Cameron Handicap field at Newcastle as “the best in a long time”. But he is confident Prized Icon, one of his two representatives in the $160,000 Group 3 sprint, has a terrific chance of landing the prize.
Lees, who last night received his award for winning his seventh Newcastle trainer’s premiership, has a pair of Group 1 winners – Prized Icon (Tommy Berry, $9 on TAB fixed odds) and Sense Of Occasion (Andrew Gibbons, $71) – lining up in the 1500m feature, and is hoping it is third time lucky.
Whilst he won the Cameron in 2009 with Absolutelyfabulous (Robert Thompson) when it was run at 1400m, he has had to stand in the second placegetter’s stall the last two years.
His now triple Group 1 winner Le Romain was runner-up to Chetwood in 2016 and Sound Proposition was edged out by roughie Got Unders last year.
“Prized Icon is in great shape and, considering he is a dual Group 1 winner, isn’t badly weighted with 57.5kg on a 54kg minimum,” Lees said. “He has drawn the rails alley, and I feel he has a terrific chance.”
Prized Icon, a five-year-old stallion, is fitter for two runs this campaign; a first-up third with 59kg to Flow in the Spring Preview (1400m) at Rosehill Gardens on August 11 before finishing fifth (beaten just under three lengths) to Unforgotten in the Group 2 wfa Chelmsford Stakes (1600m) at Royal Randwick on September 1. Berry rode him then and was keen to stick with him in the Cameron.
Lees also was pleased with the 52.5kg given Prized Icon in the $1m Group 1 Epsom Handicap (1600m) at Randwick on September 29, but is yet to confirm him a definite starter: “We’ll decide after his Cameron run whether it’s the Epsom or that after three runs back he then might be looking for the 2000m of the Hill Stakes the same day,” he said.
Last year’s Doomben Cup winner Sense Of Occasion kicks off a new campaign tomorrow, having not raced since his ninth in the Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) at Flemington last November.
“He normally races well fresh, but this time is coming off a long layoff as a result of a tendon issue,” Lees explained. “I’ve taken him along slowly, and this looks a good starting point for him.”
Lees has four runners – Aliferous (Brenton Avdulla, $14), Sunreel (Gibbons, $6.50), Grand Bouquet (Corey Brown, $23) and Everard (Michael Walker, $23) – and all are fillies.
“All four are in good form and ready for the 1600m,” Lees said. “Whether they are quite ready for Stakes company I’m not sure. This race will be a fork in the road for not only my horses, but also others as to their spring campaigns.”
Lees has two acceptors – Princess Posh (Glyn Schofield, $8) and Feelin The Love (Avdulla, $81) – in the $160,000 Group 3 Tibbie Stakes (1400m) for fillies and mares, but may not run the latter unless there is some rain.
“Princess Posh is drawn well, and won the Newcastle heat of the Provincial Championships over this course when resuming in March,” Lees said. “But I’m mindful that she has been up for quite a while.”
Lees has accepted with only Guard Of Honour in Saturday’s Hurricane Handicap (900m) at Newcastle after also nominating Dal Cielo and Tactical Advantage. In spite of the gelding’s 64kg, he has opted not to claim and Aaron Bullock takes the mount.
“I was considering using an apprentice if Guard of Honour (barrier 10 in a field of 12) drew well, but it’s best to put Aaron on the horse now that he has drawn out.”
Brilliant mare In Her Time will gallop between races at tomorrow’s meeting, with her The Everest rider Corey Brown in the saddle. She will then contest a barrier trial on the course proper next Wednesday and resume in the Group 2 wfa Premiere Stakes (1200m) at Randwick on September 29.
That will be her sole lead-up to the $13m wfa The Everest over the same course there a fortnight later. “In Her Time is in great order,” Lees said.