Everest: Kris Lees pleased with draw and final hit-out of Clearly Innocent

COOL DOWN: Mal Ollerton takes Clearly Innocent for a swim at Horseshoe Beach on Tuesday after his last piece of trackwork. Picture: Lees Racing
COOL DOWN: Mal Ollerton takes Clearly Innocent for a swim at Horseshoe Beach on Tuesday after his last piece of trackwork. Picture: Lees Racing

Kris Lees believes Clearly Innocent would appreciate a slightly longer race, but the Newcastle trainer has no concerns about the draw or preparations of his runner for the $10 million The Everest (1200m).

Clearly Innocent, one of the last confirmed to fill a slot in the world richest race on turf, was drawn in six of 12 for Saturday’s inaugural edition at Randwick on Tuesday.

Lees was not at the draw on Sydney Harbour, and slot-owner Damion Flower, of Jadesyke Racing, did the honours for Clearly Innocent, which will be ridden by Hugh Bowman on Saturday.

“I don’t get too flustered either way with barrier draws because a lot can happen once the gates open,” Lees said. “But if you said ‘pick a barrier’, I would have said ‘somewhere in the middle’.

“The ones drawn inside, they’ll push forward and you’ll get a nice trail. It looks all right for him.

“He’s going to get the race run to suit and, to be fair to him, he probably wants a touch further. In a perfect world, for this horse, I’d like it 1300, 1400 metres, but it is what it is, and we’re pretty happy with where he’s at.”

Mal Ollerton gave Clearly Innocent his final piece of trackwork on Tuesday morning over the course proper at Newcastle and Lees was pleased with what he saw.

“He had his final gallop this morning and he’s as good as he can be,” he said. “He worked over 800 metres but he was quite strong at the end of his work and he looks well.”

Clearly Innocent was third in the group 2 Premiere Stakes (1200m) first-up on September 30 at Randwick and the fast finish was enough to convince Flower to confirm the six-year-old Cressfield Stud gelding as his pick.

Flower had been negotiating with Lees and Cressfield Stud boss Bruce Neill for two months.

“The team, they are very happy with the horse, especially Kris Lees,” Flower told Sky Racing at the barrier draw.

“He was out giving him a walk and a dip this morning. Bruce and Hughie are quite confident. We were looking for a mid-barrier and we got barrier six.

“I had him earmarked out in early August. I got a really good promotional video from Bruce Neill himself and I’ve just been waiting for him to come back, and just seeing him in the Premiere sort of hit its mark for me.”

Clearly Innocent drifted from $11 to $13 with TAB Fixed Odds after the draw.

Lees said his Everest star was likely to be one of only two or three runners on Saturday’s Randwick program.

He said Sense Of Occasion may run in the $500,000 Craven Plate and Yulong Xingsheng would feature in the Reginald Allen Quality “but the rest probably won’t run”.

He said Admiral Jello would not race in the St Leger Stakes and Craven Plate nomination Sound Proposition would be saved for the Crystal Mile on Cox Plate day.

The Everest also features Hunter connections in other runners, including $4.60 favourite She Will Reign, Chautauqua ($6), Brave Smash ($31) and Houtzen ($26).

Hunter syndication company Australian Bloodstock brought Brave Smash from Japan with The Everest in mind and co-director Jamie Lovett drew barrier nine on Tuesday. The Darren Weir-trained Brave Smash will wear blinkers on Saturday.

“[Weir] has sort of been saying for a month or so that he’s a blinker horse so I guess we’re just fronting up on Saturday excited to see him run up to his best,” Lovett said on Sky Racing.

“We think he’s best will put him into the race. Obviously he’s got his knockers but that’s racing.”

“He’s run time overseas and even the day at Caulfield he ran behind Vega Magic, he did run time, so we’re going there with a fair bit of confidence and we’re very excited to be in the event.”