Doncaster Mile: Le Romain on meteoric rise to become Kris Lees’ best ever

SAMANTHA Miss “was a star from day one” and Lucia Valentina lived up to her New Zealand hype for Kris Lees to deliver him three group 1 wins each.

TOP TEAM: Kris Lees and Le Romain. Picture: Getty Images

Le Romain was third at Wyong on debut.

But just 19 months after that start, Le Romain is set to become the Newcastle trainer’s greatest group 1 horseat Randwick on Saturday.

The four-year-old, a sales reject owner-breeders offered to sell for $40,000 when unraced, was the $5 favourite for the $3 million Doncaster Mile with TAB Fixed Odds.

Already a group 1 winner in the 2016 Randwick Guineas, Cantala Stakes and 2017 Canterbury Stakes,Le Romain will become Lees’ best at the top level and move within sight of Lucia Valentina’s stakes mark of $4,354,803 with victory.Le Romain has won $2,077,075 from 16 starts and is primed to take the Doncaster first prize of $1,755,000.

“You never know where they’re going to come from,” Lees said.“Samantha Miss was a star from day one and Luciaof coursecame from New Zealand with a big rap on her.This horse just keeps coming under our guard.

“It’s very hard to pick a horse that early and say that he’s going to get to the level that he’s got to, but he’s always shownabove average ability and he’s just kept improving every preparation.

“Now he’s at the highest level and competing well.He’s a good,tough,genuine gelding. Uncompromising.”

Samantha Miss won at Randwick on debut and seven times in a 12-start career before sold for a $3.85 million record broodmare price. Lucia Valentina started her n career with third in the group 3 Surround Stakes at Warwick Farm.

Le Romain has often shown fighting qualities in tough conditions to carve out his impressive record.

“I think that’s the reasonhe’s probably right in the market,” Lees said.“He’s pretty bombproof, he handles all conditions, racing patterns, he’s come up with a nice draw [eight] and a top jockey [Hugh Bowman].”

A heavy 8 surface at Randwick only strengthened Le Romain’s claims.

“It’s a very open race, with the rain, that could change a people’s opinions, but I think it’s just a good open race,atypical Doncaster,” said Lees, whose only other runner in the event was Slow Pace [13th in 2014].“We don’t want a bog but he’s adept in all conditions, and the wet takes a few out of play.”

Lees also hasSense Of Occasion, a $51 chance.

“He’s good at the Randwick Mile, he can handle the soft ground,” he said.“He’ll be out the back and he’s a little knockout chance.”