By Glenn Davis
Newcastle trainer Kris Lees will become only the second trainer to win successive Kingsford-Smith Cups at weight-for-age if Le Romain wins the Group 1 sprint at Doomben on Saturday.
Lees won last year’s Kingsford-Smith Cup with Clearly Innocent and is hoping his three-times Group 1 winner Le Romain can repeat the feat after drawing barrier five for the 1350-metre feature.
The Kingsford-Smith has attracted a strong field of 11 runners including surprise acceptor Champagne Cuddles who drew gate 10.
Trainer Bjorn Baker made a decision just before acceptance time to run Champagne Cuddles in the Kingsford-Smith Cup in preference to the Group 3 Fred Best Classic following the filly’s slashing Gold Coast Guineas win last start.
The Kingsford-Smith, previously known as the BTC Cup, was first run in 1964 but only became a weight-for-age race in 1991, two years before its elevation to Group 1 status in 1996.
Only one trainer, the late Barry Higgins, has claimed back-to-back wins with his former Doomben champion Buck’s Pride in 1993-94.
Another Queensland star, Falvelon won two BTC Cups but they were three years apart in 2000 and 2003 while John Hawkes won the race twice with Accomplice (1997) and Lord Essex (2002).
Lees believes Le Romain is in career best form and can’t fault his condition since finishing third to English in the Group 1 Doomben 10,000 two weeks ago.
“I brought him back home after the 10,000 and he’s in really good order,” Lees said.
“I think he’s going as good now as any time in his career and is ready to run up to his best.”
It’s a big statement ahead of Le Romain’s bid for his fourth win at the highest level.
Le Romain won his first Group 1 in the Randwick Guineas in 2016 before the Cantala Stakes (formerly Emirates Stakes) at Flemington and the Canterbury Stakes at Warwick Farm last year.
He also has three seconds at Group 1 level in the All Aged Stakes at Randwick in 2017 and 2018 as well the George Ryder at Randwick last year.
Lees believes the key to Le Romain’s current form was having a lengthy spell following a colic operation which ruled him out of the spring last year.
Lees hopes Le Romain can progress to next month’s Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap at Doomben if he performs well in the Kingsford-Smith Cup.
“At this stage he’ll run in the Stradbroke but I won’t make a final decision until the weight come out,” he said.
Weights for the $1.5m Stradbroke Handicap will be released on May 28 – two days after the Kingsford-Smith.
Racing Queensland webnews May 23