UNLIKE last year, Newcastle trainer Kris Lees won’t have the Doncaster Mile favourite.
Lees, though, will again have two runners and genuine chances of beating the odds to figure in the prizemoney of the $3 million feature on day one of the Championships at Randwick this Saturday.
The Lees-trained Prized Icon was $35 and mare Invincible Gem $26 with TAB Fixed Odds on Tuesday after they drew five and 12 respectively for the Doncaster.
Last year, Lees had favourite Le Romain and $61 shot Sense Of Occasion on a heavy track in the race. Le Romain failed to fire after a troubled run but Sense Of Occasion finished well to grab third and a cheque for $300,000.
Lees was leaning towards Prized Icon as his best chance this year after a solid but winless first preparation with his stable.
The dual group 1 winner has placed three times in five runs for Lees and was third last start in the Ranvet Stakes.
“I’ll say Prized Icon,” Lees said when asked to pick his best hope. “Only because he’s had that stronger preparation for a tough Doncaster Mile, but it wouldn’t surprise me with anything that she does.”
Both Doncaster runners and Australian Derby hope Furore worked at Newcastle on Tuesday morning ahead of the barrier draws.
Lees was happy with the work and the barrier for Prized Icon, which will have Ben Melham aboard with the weight drop from 58kg in the Ranvet to 53.5kg.
“It’s an ideal draw, from that type of draw he can put himself wherever he feels comfortable,” Lees said. “But the mare has drawn a touch awkward.”
Invincible Gem will carry just 52kg and Lees said the light weight was “was probably my main reason for wanting to run her in a Doncaster”.
“She’s worked well enough, she has no weight on her back and it was always a race we thought she could compete in, so we’ll see,” he said. “She’s mixed it at a high grade, she was narrowly beaten in a group 1 last year at Randwick in the Guineas over a mile, so she’s comfortable at the distance and she’s proven at a high level.”
Invincible Gem, which will have Michael Walker in the saddle, is also nominated for the group 1 Coolmore Legacy Stakes at Randwick on April 14.
“She’s a chance at doing at both,” he said. “We’ll just decide how she comes through it.”
Invincible Gem’s most recent run was fifth in the George Ryder Stakes behind Winx.
“It was slowly run, a small field, and with Winx in the race, you’ve got to be very careful how you mark those kind of races,” Lees said.
“She probably looked a bit plain late but she’s worked all right since and I’m quite happy with her.”
Clearly Innocent was last in that race and Lees decided to skip the Doncaster with him in favour of the All Aged Stakes on April 21.
“The fact we won’t have a wet track means I just thought we would wait for the more appropriate race.”
Lees was also aiming Sound Proposition at the Doncaster but he was last in the Prelude and found to have suffered a second cardiac arrhythmia.
Furore drew barrier eight for the Derby and Lees was excited about his chances after an unlucky third in the Rosehill Guineas.
“I’m really pleased with him and I’m looking forward to Saturday,” he said. “I think he’ll run terrific.”
Le Romain will be a long-shot in the $2.5 million TJ Smith Stakes (1200m), where Newcastle trainer Ben Smith’s In Her Time drew well in three and was $4. Newcastle trainer Paul Perry’s The Mission was $81 after drawing five. Perry also has Condor ($101) in the Derby.
“He couldn’t beat some of those sharper sprinters in the Newcastle mare, Redzel or Brave Smash, but I’d like to see him finish the race off and set up for the 1400 metre race,” Lees said of Le Romain, which is being aimed at the All Aged.
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