Le Romain on right track for All Aged success
AS SOON as Le Romain finished the TJ Smith Stakes a fortnight ago, trainer Kris Lees knew the galloper was back on track for Saturday's $600,000 Group 1 All Aged Stakes (1400m) at Royal Randwick.
Le Romain, who was second in the All Aged last year, finished seventh of 11 to In Her Time when first-up this campaign in the Group 1 The Galaxy (1100m) and even though it was well short of his best trip, Lees had wanted to see more from him.
It came a fortnight ago when second-up in the Group 1 TJ Smith Stakes (1200m), back at his favourite track, Randwick, on day one of The Championships.
Le Romain finished hard behind star runners Trapeze Artist, Redzel and In Her Time, and Lees was given the thumbs-up by jockey Glyn Schofield.
"It was good to see him turn it around," Lees said. "He was OK without being over-impressive in The Galaxy, which was way too short for him.
"I was really pleased with his TJ Smith run and this was the race (the All Aged Stakes) we targeted with him.
"He's got a terrific Randwick record and he'll love the trip."
Lees will also saddle up another Group 1 winner, Clearly Innocent.
Although sixth three times this preparation, Clearly Innocent has been in a few races where the pace hasn't suited and he has come up against Happy Clapper and the champion Winx.
It's by far the strongest form reference in Australian racing at the moment.
"He wasn't that impressive in the George Ryder (sixth, beaten five and a half lengths) but that can happen when Winx is in the field," Lees said.
"He'll get a bigger field with a more solid tempo, which will suit him. He just needs a bit of cut in the ground.
"You could make a few excuses for him this preparation and he raced against Winx and Happy Clapper, who are the two benchmark horses in the country at the moment."
Lees says Le Romain is his top pick but Clearly Innocent is "more than capable" of causing an upset against the race favourite Trapeze Artist, who is coming off a scintillating TJ Smith Stakes win and will be tackling his favoured 1400m trip.
"He's a classy three-year-old who will get a weight advantage and he couldn't have been more impressive in the TJ, so he's the one to beat," Lees said.
"There's no real query on Le Romain but it's looking like a stronger All Aged Stakes than last year and it's always a good race."
Brave Smash, Tom Melbourne, Hartnell and Endless Drama are some of the notable nominees.