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Le Romain spearheads Kris Lees' team for the The Hunter at Newcastle

Le Romain’s recent third in the Redzel Stakes is cause for quiet optimism the Kris Lees stable stalwart is back near his best.

The triple Group One winner finished a length behind the winner Pierata with Trekking edging him out for second.

That is encouraging for Lees as Le Romain spearheads his team for the $1 million The Hunter (1300m) at Newcastle on Saturday when he also has a home track advantage.

The seven-year-old had two starts in August, the second when last in the Group One Winx Stakes.

Lees gave him a rest before two barrier trials last month ahead of the Redzel Stakes (1000m).

The trainer has entered five horses for The Hunter – Le Romain, Invincible Gem, Graff, Tactical Advantage and Miss Fabulass – and will run as many as he can.

“Miss Fabulass may not get a run but the other four will be there,” Lees said.

“She is in another race on the day.”

Hugh Bowman rides Le Romain, Brenton Avdulla is aboard Graff and Nash Rawiller will ride either Invincible Gem or last-start Flemington winner Tactical Advantage.

There are 26 horses vying for the 15 spots in The Hunter which can also have four emergencies with Le Romain to carry top weight of 59.5kg.

The talented Graff will wear a crossover noseband for the first time.

“He wore it when he won a trial on the Beaumont track and handled it well,” Lees said.

Lees has three-year-old filly Game Of Thorns in the Group Three Spring Stakes (1600m).

A maiden winner at Muswellbrook on debut, Game Of Thorns’ best effort in four subsequent starts has been her third in a Class One handicap over 1400m on her home track last Saturday week.

With the Spring Stakes to have a maximum of 12 runners, the trainer will put the filly to the test at stakes level.

“I wasn’t initially thinking along those lines, but will have a crack with her seeing as though it doesn’t look like being a big field,” he said.

Lees could have four runners in the Max Lees Classic (900m) for two-year-olds -Chianti, Meydan Lass, Redoute’s Image and Zeftabrook.

The race is named for the Lees’ late father who trained 1977 juvenile triple crown winner Luskin Star.

“Obviously, I am keen to be represented in the race named in Dad’s honour,” Lees said.

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