But when he says, in an understatement, that Frankely Awesome 's stakes victory at Rosehill Gardens last Saturday "gave us a lot of satisfaction", you can bet he was pretty chuffed.
The beautifully-bred mare, a daughter of unbeaten European champion Frankel and the first foal of American mare Street Secret (by Street Cry), capped a remarkable comeback in defeating stablemate and last year's Brisbane Cup winner Sixties Groove in the Listed McKell Cup (2000m).
Frankely Awesome didn't race as a two-year-old and won her first two starts as a three-year-old in 2018 at Newcastle and Scone.
Later in the season (the autumn of 2019) she was runner-up in the Group 3 Kembla Grange Classic (1600m) before being placed behind Verry Elleegant in both Group 1s, the Vinery Stud Stakes (2000m) at Rosehill and ATC Oaks (2400m) at Royal Randwick.
Unfortunately, Frankely Awesome chipped a front knee in the Oaks, and her racing future was in doubt.
"It was a pretty significant injury, and required an operation and time to recuperate," Lees explained today.
"The prognosis was guarded about a successful return to the track."
After returning to the stable, Lees gave Frankely Awesome three trials to prepare her for a comeback, and admits the prognosis was even more guarded when she failed at her first two starts (the last when she tailed a seven-horse field home at Warwick Farm on April 13).
"I put her out again, and sent her to our farm at Ellalong to attempt to get her in the right frame of mind," Lees said.
"It's what you try with mares when they aren't racing as well as you would hope."
Lees said the writing was on the wall for Frankely Awesome if she didn't perform well in the Benchmark 88 Handicap (1800m) at Rosehill on June 13.
"She had to show us she still had that desire to race, and thankfully she did enough to justify continuing on with her when she ran sixth to stablemate Attention Run.
"It was very satisfying to see her win last Saturday, especially for Cressfield Stud's Bruce Neill.
"Bruce spent a lot of money to get Frankely Awesome, purchasing her dam in America and sending her to England to be mated with Frankel, then bringing her back to Australia to foal."
Frankely Awesome was foaled in the spring of 2015 at Cressfield in the Hunter Valley, but a freak stable accident meant that she wasn't sold and was retained by her breeder to race.
Lees intends nominating the rising five-year-old mare for the $200,000 Listed Grafton Cup (2350m) on Thursday week along with stablemates Sixties Groove and Big Duke.
"Sixties Groove and Big Duke will definitely run, but I'll wait and see the track conditions before confirming a start for Frankely Awesome," Lees said.
"I wouldn't be keen to risk her if it's a firm track.
"She is a very valuable mare with a stakes victory now to her credit. I'm not really sure about how long she will continue to race before she is retired to stud."
. Graff looks like being Lees' sole representative in Wednesday week's $200,000 Listed Ramornie Handicap (1200m) at Grafton.
"Graff trialled really well at Deagon last week, and Jason Collett will ride him at Grafton," Lees said.
"He also will ride one of my runners in the Cup the following day."
Lees has nominated Stella Sea Sun and Zaniah for the Listed Bright Shadow (1200m) at Eagle Farm on Saturday, but hasn't yet decided whether either or both will head north.
Iconic Star will have a break following her unplaced run at Caulfield last Saturday. The Brazen Beau filly justified her two-start trip to Melbourne by scoring at Moonee Valley on June 13.