Fresh from a Group One win in Melbourne already this carnival, Newcastle trainer Kris Lees is aiming for another with two proven top-level performers heading to the Futurity Stakes at Caulfield.
Lees won Saturday’s Group One Lightning Stakes at Flemington with In Her Time and he has multiple Group One winner Le Romain and recent stable addition Brave Smash, the defending Futurity champion, among the 15 nominations for Saturday’s 1400m weight-for-age race.
Lees elected to dodge champion Winx in Saturday’s Group Two Apollo Stakes (1400m) in Sydney with Le Romain, preferring to wait for the Futurity.
Le Romain was second to star mare Alizee first-up in the Expressway Stakes in Sydney and they are set to clash again.
Lees expects Alizee to be hard to beat again and the James Cummings-trained mare was the $2.50 favourite on Monday ahead of Land Of Plenty ($5) while Le Romain and Brave Smash were $7.
“Le Romain has done really well since his first-up run,” Lees said.
“We considered running in the Apollo on Saturday but we’ve been down that path plenty of times, taking Winx on.
“He’ll be very competitive on Saturday, and we’re hopeful that if he can run top two it might get him into the All-Star Mile.”
Voting for the $5 million All-Star Mile closed on Monday, with the top 10 vote getters who have earned a spot in the March 16 race to be unveiled on Thursday.
Le Romain was outside the top 20 last Friday when voting went into black-out mode for the final three days, and if he misses a top 10 spot he would have to rely on being given one of four wildcards.
The winner of the Futurity, if not among the top 10 already, appears likely to gain a wildcard.
Damien Oliver rides Le Romain while Michael Walker is on Brave Smash who loomed strongly in the Group One C F Orr Stakes (1400m) last Saturday week before finishing a close fourth.
That was Brave Smash’s first start for Lees after being transferred from the disqualified Darren Weir.
Brave Smash won last year’s Futurity after a close third in the Orr.
“They said he would probably take one more run and they were just right,” Lees said.
“He nearly won.
“He’s going into the race pretty well.”
Brave Smash is likely to have blinkers re-applied.
“We’ll make a decision after Tuesday’s gallop but I’d say he will,” Lees said.