Felines finished runner-up for Kris Lees when Winx began her illustrious career, and the Newcastle trainer realises second-best is probably all he can hope for when the mare makes her comeback at Randwick.
With a 23rd consecutive victory beckoning in Saturday’s Group One Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m), the connections of Winx’s eight rivals seem to be running for the $114,000 cheque for second.
Felines lost by a respectable three-quarters of a length when Winx made her debut at Warwick Farm in June 2014.
The Lees-trained Le Romain finished a more distant second to the champion in last year’s Group One George Ryder Stakes (1500m), which Winx won by 7-1/4 lengths.
“Obviously we’re racing for second, but I think he”ll race well,” Lees said.
The TAB agrees with Prized Icon installed the $1.85 favourite in a market with Winx out. He is the $12 second elect in the full field quotes.
Lees took over training the dual Group One winner when James Cummings was appointed head Australian trainer for Godolphin last year.
Prized Icon had a lengthy spell after the Grand Prix Stakes in Brisbane last May, and Lees admitted to some concerns before he resumed with a second to Lanciato in the Listed Carrington Stakes (1400m) in late January.
“A stallion coming back off a long break, I had some reservations but he showed he had a desire to be there,” Lees said.
He was encouraged further by a second-up fourth in the Group Two Apollo Stakes (1400m) last month although he would have preferred to place Prized Icon over 1600 metres.
“He was looking for the mile second-up and we couldn’t find the right option for him so he had to go in the Apollo,” Lees said.
Lees said Prized Icon’s schedule meant sidestepping Winx was also not an option.
“This race is part of his program so it’s unavoidable,” he said.
“This run will tell us whether he goes to 2000 metres or we stay at the mile.”
While in Cummings care, Prized Icon claimed the Group One Champagne Stakes (1600m) in April 2016 and the Group One Victoria Derby (2500m) at Flemington later in the year.
In fixed odds betting, Winx eased from $1.06 to $1.08 on Friday to take her Group One tally to an Australian record 16, one clear of Black Caviar.
Her trainer Chris Waller has no reason to doubt she will.
“There are so many positive signs that she is just as well now as she has ever been,” he said.
“Everything has gone to plan and we wouldn’t change anything in any way.”