Nov 08, 2018
NEWCASTLE: Thursday, November 8, 2018: KRIS Lees says he can’t fault Prized Icon ahead of the stallion’s attempt to break a two-year drought at Flemington on Saturday.
Winless at 18 starts since taking the Victoria Derby (2500m) on October 29, 2016 (when prepared by James Cummings), Prized Icon returns to the scene of that triumph in the $2m Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes (2000m).
Thoroughly aware that his five-year-old has been out of the winning list for such a long time – and in 11 starts since joining his stable (though including five placings, one of them chasing home Winx in the Group 1 1600m Chipping Norton at Royal Randwick in March), Lees is ready to give him another shot at Group 1 glory.
“I don’t feel it’s the strongest Mackinnon Stakes we’ve seen,” Lees said this afternoon.
“Prized Icon is up and going in Melbourne, and I can’t fault him.
“He has trained on well since his latest Moonee Valley second in the Crystal Mile a fortnight ago.
“Prized Icon has raced well at his only two starts at Flemington, so why not have a crack at the Mackinnon?”
Prized Icon returned to Flemington a few months after his Derby triumph – he had won the Group 1 Champagne Stakes (1600m) at Randwick as a two-year-old earlier that year – and finished a close second to Hey Doc in the Group 1 Australian Guineas (1600m).
Prized Icon’s rider Damien Oliver has been having a lean trot, and broke his drought by snatching a last-gasp victory on Vow And Declare at today’s Oaks meeting at Flemington.
Lees is hoping he can do the same for Prized Icon on Saturday.
He has two runners at the fourth and final day of the Melbourne Cup carnival – and both line up in Group 1s.
Classy mare In Her Time (Corey Brown) contests the $1m VRC Sprint Classic (1200m); her first start since finishing a creditable seventh on heavy ground in the $13m The Everest (1200m) at Randwick on October 13.
Lees has prepared In Her Time at home, and didn’t send her to Melbourne until this week.
“I decided to keep her here in familiar surroundings; there was no need to go down any earlier,” he explained.
“She travelled well, and has settled in well. You have to forget The Everest run because she just wasn’t comfortable on that ground.
“A better surface on Saturday suits, and I’m happy with how she has done in the last couple of weeks.
“It’s a really open race, but she is already proven at Group 1 level and is more than capable of winning this.”
Lees also has two Rosehill Gardens representatives on Saturday; Karavali (1500m Benchmark 88 Handicap) and Turnberry (1400m Benchmark 78 Handicap).
Apprentice Jean Van Overmeire’s 2kg claim lessens Karavali’s weight to 60kg, whilst senior jockey Rachel King partners Turnberry.
“I accepted with Karavali at Flemington last Tuesday, and started to regret I didn’t go ahead when the heavy rain hit the track on the day,” Lees said.
“Still, Rosehill also will be rain-affected on Saturday, and that is to her liking.
“She has come on from her first-up run, and always performs better second up.”
Grafton Guineas winner Turnberry begins a new campaign, and his trainer is pleased with his progress.
“I spelled him after he won the Guineas (1600m) in July, and he’s ready to resume now,” Lees said.
“He will probably need this outing, but I’m sure he is going to have a good preparation up to 2000m at least.”