Winless at 18 starts since taking the Victoria Derby (2500m) on October 29, 2016 when prepared by James Cummings, Prized Icon returns to the scene of that triumph in the $2 million Mackinnon Stakes (2000m).
Lees is thoroughly aware that his five-year-old has been out of the winning list for such a long time
In11 starts since joining his stable he has filled five placings, one of them chasing home Winx in the G1 Chipping Norton Stakes at Randwick in March.
“I don’t feel it’s the strongest Mackinnon Stakes we’ve seen,” Lees said. “Prized Icon is up and going and I can’t fault him.
“He has trained on well since his latest Moonee Valley second in the Crystal Mile a fortnight ago.
“Prized Icon has raced well at his only two starts at Flemington, so why not have a crack at the Mackinnon?”
Prized Icon returned to Flemington a few months after his Derby triumph and finished a close second to Hey Doc in the G1 Australian Guineas (1600m).
Damien Oliver had been having a lean trot but broke his drought by snatching a last-gasp victory on Vow And Declare at today’s Oaks meeting at Flemington and Lees is hoping he can do the same for Prized Icon on Saturday.
Lees also has classy mare In Her Time (Corey Brown) contesting the $1 million VRC Sprint Classic (1200m).
It will be her first start since finishing a creditable seventh on heavy ground in the $13 million The Everest (1200m) at Randwick on October 13.
Lees has prepared In Her Time at home, and didn’t send her to Melbourne until this week.
“I decided to keep her here in familiar surroundings; there was no need to go down any earlier,” he explained.
“She travelled well, and has settled in well. You have to forget The Everest run because she just wasn’t comfortable on that ground.
“A better surface on Saturday suits, and I’m happy with how she has done in the last couple of weeks.“It’s a really open race, but she is already proven at Group 1 level and is more than capable of winning this.”