Kris Lees and Christian Reith will be out to shock the autumn carnival’s biggest names for a second time when they team up with an outsider in the Newmarket Handicap at Newcastle.
Lees and Reith joined forces when Le Romain upset odds-on favourite Press Statement in the Randwick Guineas and the trainer and jockey chase more success with River Lad in the Listed race on Lees’ home track on Wednesday.
“The jockey is in form and the horse is getting there,” Lees said.
The 2014 Stradbroke Handicap winner, River Lad has raced three times since being transferred to Lees’ Newcastle stable and the sprinter is yet to finish closer than fifth.
But Lees has seen enough to rate the rising nine-year-old a chance to win for the first time since he held off Temple Of Boom and Srikandi in his Stradbroke triumph.
“I suppose he has been a bit hard to place but he’d be a chance in a race like the Newmarket,” Lees said.
“He’s up in the weights and he’s obviously paying for his Stradbroke win which he deserves to, but he’s getting closer.”
While River Lad has an established reputation, stablemate Goldstream will be out to create an impression at his first Australian start in the $125,000 race.
Italian bred, Goldstream races under the Australian Bloodstock banner and steps out for the first time since finishing unplaced in the Group One Von Baden in Germany in September.
The four-year-old won his first five starts in a sequence that included the Italian Derby.
Goldstream was then sent to the United States to contest the Secretariat Stakes, a Group One race in which he finished fourth to subsequent Cox Plate placegetter and Hong Kong Vase winner Highland Reel.
Brenton Avdulla rode Goldstream in the Secretariat and he has the Newmarket mount after riding the entire in a Newcastle barrier trial in which he ran second to the Lees-trained Group One-winning mare Lucia Valentina.
In a an open market that has the Gai Waterhouse-trained Ecuador as the $5 favourite, Goldstream has firmed from $10 to $8 and River Lad is a $21 chance.
Chris Waller has three entries – Amovatio, Sadler’s Lake and Religify – while Waterhouse also has Supara in the race.