By Ray Hickson
Kris Lees sees the job of bringing Group 1 winner Prized Icon back to his best as something of a personal challenge and is confident there are more wins in store.
The 2016 Victoria Derby winner will make his long-awaited season debut in the Listed Carrington Stakes (1400m) at Rosehill on January 27 after pleasing Lees is his second barrier trial at Wyong on Tuesday.
Prized Icon was trained by James Cummings to win his Derby but was switched to Lees and given the spring off when Cummings made the move to Godolphin.
“He’s a high profile horse, his two trials have been pleasing but he’s a stallion and you'd like to see if he can get back to anywhere near his best form,’’ Lees said.
“He’s in for a good autumn if he can do that.’’
Glyn Schofield settled Prized Icon in second place in the 1000m trial, they hit the lead before being run down by the lightly raced Manhattan Mist.
Prized Icon finishes second in his Wyong barrier trial on Tuesday
Lees said the result of the trial was far less important than having a solid gallop.
“I wanted him to have a decent hit-out. I didn’t want it to be a jog and canter, I wanted it to be a fitness benefit because he needed a good blowout,’’ he said.
Prized Icon headlined a strong team of carnival hopefuls for Lees at the Wyong trials and the other horse he’s keen to return to winning form is 2015 Country Championship winner Artlee.
The seven-year-old hasn’t raced since the Stradbroke Handicap of 2016 as a bout of colic prevented him making a comeback last spring.
Artlee, formerly with Todd Willan, will have a second trial in two weeks but his win over the 845m is seen as an ideal kick off.
“He’s a very smart horse, if we can keep him sound and get him back to the track he’s in for a good autumn,’’ Lees said.
The 2016 Country Championship winner Clearly Innocent finished last in Artlee’s trial and Lees said his appearance was more an outing for the gelding than a serious trial.
But he added Clearly Innocent is rarely competitive in trials and saves his best for race day.
“You wouldn’t think he is a Group 1 seven furlong horse on his trials, but he is what he is,’’ he said.
“He trialled up to our expectation albeit he wasn’t out to do anything either because he was only just ready to trial.’’
Clearly Innocent is set to resume in the Group 3 Southern Cross Stakes (1200m) on February 17 and will have a second trial or an exhibition gallop before that race.
Group 1 winner Sense Of Occasion and talented mare Danish Twist also came through their trials well and will both have a second trial before resuming.
Meanwhile, Lees is hoping rejuvenated stayer Singing can keep up his winning form in the Listed $150,000 Gosford Quarries Gold Cup (2100m) on Thursday.
The eight-year-old has found a new lease on life with two easy all the way wins in Brisbane in December.
Surprisingly, they are his only Australian wins as injury has restricted the gelding to just 10 starts since his local debut in mid-2016.
“He’s found good form and if he can maintain that he can be competitive,’’ Lees said.
“Most importantly he’s pain free, we’ve had trouble with his feet and a couple of times he’s had setbacks. His feet are in good order and it is showing in his races.’’