Newcastle Jockey Club awards: Trainer Kris Lees takes top gong after record season

Kris Lees and his mother, Vicki Lees, with the Max Lees Medal in 2015. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
Kris Lees and his mother, Vicki Lees, with the Max Lees Medal in 2015. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Premier Hunter trainer Kris Lees was recognised for his standout 2016-17 season with the Newcastle Jockey Club Achiever of the Year award on Wednesday night.

Lees had a personal-best 161 winners in a season to finish fifth on the Australian trainers’ premiership.

The season also included milestone efforts of four group 1 victories, second on the NSW premiership with 158 wins and more than $9 million in prizemoney.

Also at the Newcastle Racecourse function, Le Romain was named Newcastle Horse of the Year after giving Lees two of his group 1 successes last season. The now five-year-old gelding won the Cantala Stakes at Flemington and the Canterbury Stakes. He steps out in the group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) at Flemington on Saturday.

Paul Perry-trained The Mission was two-year-old of the year after his group 1 Champagne Stakes victory.

The Newcastle premierships of John O’Shea (trainers), Rachel King (apprentices) and Jeff Penza (jockeys) were also recognised.

The Bill Wade Medal for the best winning strike-rate among jockeys went to Brenton Avdulla, while O’Shea collected the trainers’ equivalent, the Max Lees Medal.

In the Cessnock premiership, honours went to Singleton jockey Aaron Bullock, Queensland apprentice Matthew McGillivray and Lees. Bullock won despite spending several months out of racing because of weight issues. He returned with a win on Ben Smith’s Anecdote at Tamworth on Tuesday.