Kris Lees expects Juventus to improve from a better draw when one of seven the top Newcastle trainer saddles up in the fifth and final Provincial Championship qualifier (1350 metres) at Wyong on Saturday.
Lees, who has claimed provincial championships with mares Serene Miss (2018) and Danish Twist (2016), already has four starters in the $500,000 final at Randwick on April 11.
Great Danger was second to Moana Jewel in the Hawkesbury heat, Stella Sea Sun was runner-up to Oakfield Missile at Newcastle, Asharani won the Gosford qualifier, which was run at Newcastle, and Enchanted Heart was third at Kembla Grange last weekend.
Again, the top-three finishers in the $150,000 heat will gain starts in the decider.
Lees has TAB favourite Lifetime Quest ($3.80) as well as Juventus, Bubbles Ball, Albert's No Pussy, Bombasay, Animate and Siesta Key in the Wyong heat. Jack's Bar was a scratching on Friday, which gave stablemate Siesta Key a run.
Lifetime Quest, a four-year-old gelding, was unplaced for the first time in 11 career starts at his most recent run, at Canterbury on January 31, when just 1.8 lengths away in fourth.
A winner at Warwick Farm, Lifetime Quest is the pick of the Lees' camp on form but the trainer was wary of the poor draw in 17, which will become 14 of 16 with emergencies taken out.
"The draw concerns me, he's going to need a lot of luck from there, but he's in good order," Lees said.
Asked if Lifetime Quest, to be ridden by Christian Reith, was his best chance on class, Lees said: "He's still lightly graded and he's got a bit of upside, but Juventus has been competing well in Sydney grade for the last 12 months nearly.
"His first-up run was good, last week's run was so-so, but he's better suited with a good draw."
Juventus, sporting the colours of half-brothers Great Danger and three-time group 1 winner Le Romain, was a $12 chance from gate six, which should become five. Sammie Clenton, who rode Great Danger into the final, will be aboard.
Juventus was three-lengths ninth first-up this preparation behind Trumbull and provincial final favourite Asharani, then eighth in the Kembla qualifier last Saturday from gate 13.
Of his other runners in the Wyong heat, Lees said three-year-old gelding Animate ($7.50) and Bubbles Ball ($6) were his next best chances.
Animate won at Scone and Gosford in February before a break leading into the qualifier. He has trialled since and will have Andrew Gibbons to ride from gate 11, which should become nine.
Bubbles Ball, a four-year-old Zoustar mare, finished well to just miss a place in the heat won by Asharani in track record time at Newcastle. She has Louise Day in the saddle from gate 12, which should become 10.
"I thought Animate would run all right freshened up a bit and Bubbles Ball just needs a bit of luck from the draw," Lees said.
Graeme Murray-trained Miss Scorcher was equal-second favourite at $6.