Newcastle trainer Kris Lees believes Clearly Innocent is worthy of a spot in the world’s richest turf race, the $10 million The Everest (1200 metres), as Hunter interests line up chances for the October event at Randwick.
Clearly Innocent gave Lees his 14th group 1 win when claiming the Kingsford Smith Cup (1300m) at Eagle Farm before a fast-finishing third in the Stradbroke Handicap (1350m) last Saturday from a wide gate at Doomben. The impressive Queensland campaign came after the five-year-old gelding won his second successive Luskin Star Stakes (1300m) at Scone.
Lees said his latest stable star would be aimed at The Everest, a new weight-for-age race carrying a first prize of $5.8 million. All 12 Everest slots, costing $600,000 each, have been bought by investors, who will now search for the best horses to take up the opportunity.
“Clearly Innocent has gone for a break and we’re hoping to get him into The Everest,” Lees said. “I’d like to think he could make a field of 12 at 1200 metres, that he’d be in the top 12 around, so that’s what we’re hoping for.”
Clearly Innocent was a $51 chance for the race with TAB Fixed Odds. Lees said three-time group 1 winner Le Romain, which was not in the market, was his another potential runner.
“The only other one would be Le Romain but it’s just whether he’s a 1200m horse at that level,” he said.
“He’s probably better a bit further but if it’s raining ... and at that time of the year, you never know. He’s been back in work a month and he’ll resume in the Missile Stakes [August 6] in Sydney. He’s target races will be the Memsie Stakes and the Makybe Diva in Melbourne.”
Top pick for The Everest, Chautauqua, and the first confirmed entry, She Will Reign, which is third favourite, have Hunter connections. Chautauqua was bred in Maitland by Edwina Throsby, who is also a part-owner. Golden Slipper winner She Will Reign is part-owned by Cessnock’s Matt and Nick Evans and John Robertson.
Lees, meanwhile, had a treble at Cessnock on Tuesday with Biscuit Time, What A Sister and Yarrapower to go to 131 wins for the season.
He is also welcoming a host of young talent from Gooree Park Stud after he was among trainers chosen to fill the breach left by James Cummings’ move to Godolphin. He said Launch Code was the only established addition so far.
“The majority of the other ones are all younger horses, so I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “They are prolific breeders Gooree Park Stud so we’re very fortunate to have them as part of the team.”