Oct 11, 2018
NEWCASTLE: Thursday, October 11, 2018: KRIS Lees has refrained from naming a pick of his three runners in Saturday’s $13m TAB Everest, but says Graff has the “most upside”.
The classy three-year-old is the rookie of the 12-horse field at Royal Randwick, and joins Group 1 stablemates In Her Time (Corey Brown) and Le Romain (Glyn Schofield) in the eagerly-awaited 1200m feature.
Brenton Avdulla is a new rider for Star Witness three-year-old Graff, who is having only his sixth start and is the first colt of his age to contest The Everest.
“I couldn’t honestly say with any confidence what my best chance is,” Lees said this afternoon. “The market reflects just what a marvellous and open race it is.
“My three are going to the races in great order.
“In Her Time has trained on really well since her excellent first-up close third in the Premiere Stakes (1200m) a fortnight ago in fast time, and will run boldly,” Lees said this afternoon, discussing the chances of his trio.
“Le Romain is a triple Group 1 winner, and is so good at Randwick, especially on wet ground. He never lets us down.
“Graff certainly has a bit of the unknown factor about him. As a lightly-raced three-year-old, his form is obviously not as well exposed because this will be his first test in open company.
“He’s got the most upside of any of the Everest runners, and we’re in a $13m race with only 53kg to find out just how good he is.”
Lees not only has 25 per cent of The Everest field, but also three representatives in the “consolation”, the $500,000 Group 3 Sydney Stakes over the same course.
He runs Clearly Innocent (Hugh Bowman) – his sole representative in last year’s inaugural Everest -, Tactical Advantage (Avdulla) and Dal Cielo (Schofield).
“Clearly Innocent is resuming but is partial to soft ground and will get conditions to suit, whilst Dal Cielo can mix his form his form a bit but has been racing consistently of late in Queensland and is very capable on his day,” Lees said.
“Tactical Advantage keeps taking the next step and could not have been more impressive than when he won easily on the inside (Kensington) track at his last start.
“This is obviously tougher and he’s up to weight-for-age, but he is going really well and should be hard to beat.”
Lees has put blinkers on last year’s Doomben Cup winner Sense Of Occasion (apprentice Sam Weatherley) in the Benchmark 100 Handicap (1600m).
The gelding never came into contention first-up in last month’s Group 3 Cameron Handicap (1500m) on his home track, but has since won a 1200m Gosford trial.
“He trialled well, and loves wet conditions,” Lees said. “This race should set him up nicely for longer races in Melbourne.”
Evalina (Listed Reginald Allen Quality, 1400m) and Doukhan(Group 3 Craven Plate, 2000m) complete Lees’ contingent of nine Everest Day runners.
“Evalina is up in grade, but this isn’t the strongest stakes race by any means,” he said. “Doukhan will take improvement from this as he heads to the 2800m race at Flemington on Cup day.”