Kris Lees is ready to give the “green light” for Prized Icon to chase a third Group 1 at Rosehill Gardens tomorrow. Lees this afternoon indicated he was leaning toward the four-year-old contesting the $700,000 wfa Ranvet Stakes (2000m), provided there is no further substantial overnight rain.
Fully aware Prized Icon’s two victories to date at racing’s elite level have been achieved on a quick back-up, he is keen to give the stallion his chance to achieve another Group 1 success and add to his future stud value.
Hugh Bowman replaces the suspended Glyn Schofield on Prized Icon ($9 on TAB fixed odds), whom he considers will be very competitive as he steps up to 2000m for the first time this preparation.
Prized Icon lost some caste with punters after his sixth to Doncaster Mile contender Comin’ Through in the Group 2 Ajax Stakes (1500m) at Rosehill last Saturday – but not his trainer.
“He was ridden too close, and was beaten only one and a half lengths,” Lees said. “Prized Icon has done really well this week. It’s a pretty open race and I’m sure he can be in the finish.
“His two Group 1 wins (1600m Champagne Stakes at Randwick and 2500m Victoria Derby at Flemington when prepared by James Cummings) both came after backing up from runs a week earlier, and I can’t fault his condition.”
If Prized Icon takes his place in the Ranvet – as expected – Lees will have 10 runners in Group races (four Group 1s and three Group 3s) at the Golden Slipper Stakes meeting. His other Group 1 representatives are Clearly Innocent (Tommy Berry) and Invincible Gem (Zac Purton) against wonder mare Winx in the $1m George Ryder Stakes (1500m), triple Group 1 winner Le Romain (Bowman) in the $700,000 The Galaxy (1100m) and up and coming three-year-old Furore (Brenton Avdulla) in the $600,000 Rosehill Guineas (2000m).
“Naturally I’m not expecting either Clearly Innocent or Invincible Gem to beat Winx, but I’m expecting them to both run well,” Lees said. “Clearly Innocent is on trial at 1500m, but the soft track will suit him and Invincible Gem has won up to 1600m and then was just caught over that trip in the Randwick Guineas 12 months ago on heavy ground.
“Provided they please tomorrow, they will go on to the Doncaster Mile at Randwick in a fortnight. Le Romain is coming back from colic surgery last October, and I’m not really expecting him to win The Galaxy first-up over 1100m.
“But he is coming along nicely and is proven on wet ground. It just might bring some of the speedsters back to him, and he’s forward enough to run well. The All Aged Stakes (1400m Group 1 at Randwick on April 21) is his autumn target, and he’ll run in the TJ Smith Stakes (another Group 1 over 1200m) there in a fortnight on the way to that.
“Furore is unbeaten at four starts, and I’ve thrown him to the wolves in the Guineas. It’s a big test of course, but I have no doubt he will handle the 2400m because he has kept getting stronger at the end of his races. Another point in his favour is that he is going into this race with a good grounding with recent 1900m and 2100m wins at the provincials.”
Lees said he considered waiting a week and starting Furore in the Group 2 Tulloch Stakes over the same course, but opted for the Guineas as it then gave the three-year-old a fortnight’s break should he line up in the $2m Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m) at Randwick on April 7.
A son of Golden Slipper winner Pierro from a Redoute’s Choice mare (Stormy Choice), Lees said he bought him in New Zealand as a yearling, especially as he came from a “nice family”.