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Le Romain wins Canterbury Stakes classic

A year after Le Romain won the $1-million Randwick Guineas, he wound back the clock to pip the world’s best sprinter and clinch the third Group One of his career.

In a rousing finale to the $500,000 Canterbury Stakes (1300m) on Saturday, the four-year-old gelding dipped on the post to beat Chautauqua by a short head, although trainer Kris Lees initially thought the golden grey had clung on.

“To beat a champion on the line, it’s very satisfying. I thought he got beaten,” Lees said, hoping Le Romain ($4.80) would finally get the credit he deserved.

“I said he was a little bit underrated before, but he’s never been in our books.”

Le Romain closed out his last preparation by winning the Group One Cantala Stakes at Flemington last October and Lees said he had enhanced his reputation further with a dogged run on a heavy track.

“He’s tough, he can run up to a mile. He’s given himself every chance and now he’s competed at weight-for-age.”

Lees reiterated the Doncaster Mile on April 1 was the target but before then Le Romain has the opportunity to upset the world’s best horse on turf, the outstanding mare Winx when they line-up in the George Ryder Stakes at Rosehill on March 18.

Jockey Glyn Schofield had no doubt Le Romain would be up for that tussle after seeing off Chautauqua’s challenge.

“My fella wasn’t going to lie down. He really enjoyed it, he dug down deep. The fight’s what he loves,” he said.

Chautauqua’s co-trainer Michael Hawkes was far from despondent after the six-year-old gelding – a $3.20 favourite – encountered a heavy track for just the second time in his 26-race career.

“He was outstanding, it was the run of the race,” Hawkes said, after Chautauqua raced over more than 1200m for the first time since the All-Aged Stakes at Randwick almost two years ago.

Jockey Tommy Berry was also upbeat.

“What he showed me is that he will relax enough to go up to a Doncaster if they want to take that path with him.

“You can see when he started to get confident in the going because that’s when he really picked up ground late. He’s back.”

Last year’s 2016 Epsom Handicap winner Hauraki was third, three lengths adrift of the frontrunners.

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