Kris Lees says Princess Posh is the “one with the most upside” as he begins his Provincial Championships title defence at Wyong on Thursday.
Lees qualified eight of the 15 runners in last year’s $400,000 final and snared the quinella, with Danish Twist nabbing Powerline on the post.
The 2017 series launches at Wyong with each of the five provincial heats being lifted from $100,000 to $150,000.
Lees accepted with four horses in the 1350m qualifier and will run three of them.
He said this morning that Star Reflection will be an absentee because of her wide barrier and he will rely on Beretta (Blake Shinn), Upstart (Glyn Schofield) and Princess Posh (Brenton Avdulla).
“Princess Posh is the one with the most upside of the trio,” Lees said.
“It may have all come a bit quick for her because she has raced only three times and is not long out of maiden class but I’m sure she will be most competitive.”
Australian Bloodstock-owned Princess Posh, a three-year-old filly by Canford Cliffs, has been impressive in two wins since resuming; both on the Beaumont track over 1150m on 7 January and 4 February.
“Beretta is resuming and no doubt is looking for a bit further,” Lees said. “But he is certainly capable and not without a chance.
“The same with Upstart who can mix his form. He has drawn the inside alley and is a chance if he puts his best feet forward.”
Beretta hasn’t raced since finishing third over 1630m at Doomben on 12 November last year, and has been placed at both trials (at Broadmeadow on 25 January and Gosford on 6 February) in preparation for his resumption.
Upstart was a splendid third to Irish Constabulary in the Country Cup (1200m) at the Magic Millions meeting at the Gold Coast on 14 January, then finished last of eight runners in a Benchmark 75 Handicap (1250m) at a Canterbury night meeting on 3 February.
Whilst Star Reflection will be missing from the Wyong heat, she is one of five horses Lees is nominating for next Thursday’s $150,000 qualifier at Hawkesbury.
His other entries for the 1400m event will be recent Royal Randwick placegetter Knit ‘N’ Purl, Lomazzo, Karavali and Reach For Heaven.
Last year’s Country Championships Final winner Clearly Innocent is a new addition to Lees’ team.
With Scone-based Greg Bennett retiring from training in the coming months to take up a new racing post in Queensland, it was decided to transfer the talented sprinter to Lees, who has regularly trained for his owners, Cressfield.
Clearly Innocent has won seven of his 12 starts. He also beat subsequent Group 1 Doomben Ten Thousand winner Music Magnate in the Listed Luskin Star Stakes (1300m) at the Scone carnival last May.
The five-year-old has not started since early November, but has been in work for a few weeks at Scone.