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Le Romain poised to end Waller’s reign

Le Romain
Le Romain provides Kris Lees with a chance to end Chris Waller’s winning reign at the Doncaster Mile

Kris Lees is in relatively unfamiliar territory as he rejoins the list of trainers striving to snap Chris Waller’s recent domination of the Doncaster Mile.

Lees is no stranger to trailing Waller’s runners, most recently Winx, but with the super mare not defending the $3 million focal point of Saturday’s opening day of The Championships at Randwick, the Newcastle trainer has reason to be confident ahead of a rare involvement with a handicap first held in 1866.

Although Waller, who has prepared every Doncaster Mile winner since Sacred Falls triumphed in 2013, has four contenders vying to give him a record-equalling seventh victory, it is Lees who has the $6 favourite, Le Romain.

It is only the second time Lees has had runners in the Doncaster and denying Waller the opportunity to join Gai Waterhouse as the Doncaster Mile’s most successful trainer appeals on family grounds.

The Doncaster (1600m) was consistently a race too far for his late father Max, while Kris Lees’ only previous experience was in 2014 when the aptly-named Slow Pace finished 13th of 20.

“He (Dad) ran a lot of mares that won Coolmores but they weren’t quite up to that next level,” Lees said.

Three-time Group One winner Le Romain, to be ridden by Hugh Bowman, came up with barrier eight while stablemate Sense Of Occasion will start from 10 with Corey Brown aboard.

“Perfect. It gives Hugh Bowman options depending how the track is racing by that race (nine),” Lees said.

“There’ll be some perceived pattern. He’ll be able to work that out.”

Lees is also hoping Sydney’s weather continues to clear although rain is forecast on Thursday before the sun returns.

With Chautauqua, who Le Romain beat in the Canterbury Stakes, running in the TJ Smith and not the Doncaster, weights have been raised and Le Romain will carry 56.5kg.

“He’s adept on all ground but now he’s getting up in weight, you’d probably prefer a little firmer than a complete bog,” he said.

Lees said the lead-up had gone smoothly since Le Romain ran seven lengths second to Winx in the George Ryder Stakes on March 18.

“He’s in good order, he’s such a consistent horse,” he said.

“He’s very uncomplicated. He puts himself in the right spot and he gives himself every chance.”

Sense of Occasion, who is at $51, earned a ballot exemption to the Doncaster with his win in the Villiers Stakes in December but Lees was restrained about the six-year-old gelding’s chances.

“He’s certainly ready,” he said.

“Whether he’s got the class is quite questionable.

“He gets here with no weight (52.5kg). He’s another one that can handle all ground and if you get a really hot run race he’ll be strong late.”

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