Kris Lees has given unbeaten colt Graff his tick of approval – the outside barrier notwithstanding – for his final Golden Rose lead-up at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday.
Attempting to make it four wins from as many starts, the classy three-year-old is a dominant pre-post favourite for the $200,000 Group 2 The Run To The Rose (1200m).
He is also joint favourite with The Autumn Sun for the $1m Group 1 Golden Rose (1400m) at the same track in a fortnight.
Graff (Jason Collett), a brilliant first-up winner in the Group 3 San Domenico Stakes (1100m) at Rosehill on August 25, initially drew the devil’s number (13), but will start from 12 with the withdrawal of dual acceptor Danawi.
“Obviously the barrier is not ideal but I’m not worried about it,” Lees said.
“I might scratch a maiden horse from a poor draw but otherwise I don’t get worked up about it.
“Even if Graff is three deep with cover, he will get his chance.
“Rain is forecast and that won’t worry Graff at all. I can’t fault the horse, he has trained on really well since the San Domenico.”
Lees is taking things one race at a time with the Star Witness colt and, understandably, won’t confirm definite Melbourne plans until after the Golden Rose.
“The obvious targets are either the Caulfield Guineas (1600m on October 13) or freshen him for the Coolmore Stud Stakes (1200m at Flemington on November 3),” he said.
Like the Golden Rose, both are Group 1s.
Graff made racegoers sit up and take notice when he handled soft ground with aplomb and cleared out to beat Neutrality and Performer in the San Domenico.
It was the first time he had worn blinkers in a race, but was to have raced in them in Brisbane in the winter until a barrier mishap forced his late withdrawal from the Sires Produce Stakes (1350m) at Doomben on May 26.
Graff wins the San Domenico Stakes at Rosehill on August 25
Lees’ other Rosehill runner is Zestful, and Brett Prebble will ride her in the $200,000 Group 2 Sheraco Stakes (1200m).
Prebble, one of only four jockeys to have ridden more than 800 winners in Hong Kong, has returned home to Melbourne and resumes his Australian career at the meeting.
His last ride for Lees almost brought an upset result. He rode $41 chance Powerline, who was nabbed on the post by stablemate Danish Twist in the $500,000 Provincial Championships Final (1400m) at Royal Randwick in April, 2016.
As with Graff, Lees won’t be concerned in the slightest if there is rain leading up to Saturday’s race.
Zestful was narrowly beaten by Egyptian Symbol in the Group 3 Toy Show Quality (1300m) at Royal Randwick on August 18 and is likely to be mated with a Widden Stud stallion after Saturday’s race, but may subsequently return to Lees’ stables and race on for a while before being retired.
“Any rain would suit her, and I can say that she is going as well if not better than when she was just beaten at Randwick last time,” Lees said.