Kris Lees will consider another shot at the group 1 Kennedy Mile for Le Romain despite him being the best of his trio over 1200 metres in The Everest on Saturday.
Le Romain was the last of Lees’ team to gain a slot in the $13 million race at Randwick and he put in a typically gutsy effort in the heavy going from gate 11 to finish fourth.
The six-year-old gelding, a group 1 winner at 1300m and twice at 1600m, worked hard early to sit outside leader and eventual winner Redzel before hanging on to take a $820,000 cheque.
Lees-trained colt Graff made up ground late for fifth and $600,000 – the price of a slot. The Newcastle trainer’s other starter, In Her Time, was seventh ($300,000).
Lees was pleased with Le Romain and Graff, especially given the lack of speed early, while In Her Time didn’t handle conditions.
“He ran as good as he could,” Lees said of Le Romain. “It was a really funny run race. It poured before the race, which created a bit of uncertainty for everyone.
“They let the leader get away with a soft time, even though we were outside him, they were still going too slow even for his liking. He likes more pressure in the race and when they sprinted they left him a little flat-footed, but he battled away.”
He was surprised at the lack of challengers to Redzel, the defending champion from gate one, early.
“US Navy Flag was going to, but it missed the start,” he said. “Vega Magic was probably the one I thought would push up, but he grabbed hold of it, so I was really happy where we got to, but the pressure was just a bit slow for [Le Romain].
“[Graff] was super. He stepped away a touch slow and he got back and was getting buffeted, and they weren’t going quick, so I reckon he would have some really good sectionals. [In Her Time] was struggling the whole way but she still rallied late, and it was probably a good run considering she was never comfortable.”
He said Graff would be spelled, but Le Romain and In Her Time would likely go to Melbourne, where they are nominated for the group 1 1200m Manikato Stakes and VRC Sprint Classic.
Le Romain was second to Winx over 1600m in the George Main Stakes before gaining a late Everest call-up and Lees was now keeping options open.
“He could go back to a mile,” he said. “It’s a bit of a funny prep, so it’s whether we go back to a mile and race in the Cantala [on November 3]. We’re not ruling it out.”
Le Romain won the Cantala, now the Kennedy Mile, in 2016 at Flemington. He said In Her Time would likely miss the October 26 Manikato and focus on the November 10 VRC Sprint Classic.
“We’ll probably go for four weeks, just off that hard run, I’m not sure going two weeks is the right thing,” he said.