Awesome time for a filly to win the Derby

5 min read

by Bren O'Brien

The cards have fallen into place for Frankely Awesome (Frankel {GB}) to become the first filly to win the G1 Harrolds Australian Derby in eight years, according to trainer Kris Lees.

Lees has decided to back Frankely Awesome up from her excellent second behind the star filly Verry Elleegant (NZ) (Zed {NZ}) in last Saturday's G1 Vinery Stud S. with James McDonald, fresh from a Group 1 double, to take the ride.

She is the only filly in the field of 16 plus one emergency and came up with barrier 16 for the $2m race, but Lees told RSN, she is in the right order to become the first filly since Shamrocker (NZ) (O'Reilly {NZ}) to win the autumn classic.

Frankely Awesome

"We're really pleased with how she has come through the race. We discussed it with the owner yesterday afternoon and we've decided to accept with the view that it appeared there was not a lot between the two races (the Derby and the Oaks)," he said.

"We're really pleased with how she has come through the race." - Trainer Kris Lees

"Also, the opportunity to run again on softer ground. There's not a lot of rain forecast for the week after, so it might be the right time to take on the colts."

Jameka (Myboycharlie {Ire}) was the last filly to contest the ATC Derby, running second to Tavago (Tavistock {NZ}) in 2016, while the only other filly to take on the colts and geldings in the 2400m race since Shamrocker won it in 2011 was Silent Achiever (NZ), who ran sixth in 2012.

But with Randwick and Rosehill Guineas winner The Autumn Sun (Redoute's Choice) now spelling, there is no clear top contender for the Derby, while the Chris Waller-trained Verry Elleegant has now emerged as clearly the best of a strong crop of 3-year-old staying fillies.

"I think across the board, the fillies are very strong," Lees said. "She looks reasonably dominant, Verry Elleegant. I think the colts are a very even lot. I think it’s still a very competitive race. The market is often is often a good guide and it’s a pretty bunched market as it stands."

Verry Elleegant winning the G1 Vinery Stud S.

The short back-up for the Cressfield-owned Frankely Awesome, a winner of two of her seven starts, does not concern Lees.

"We’ve always felt it would be better if she could get some cut out of the ground, obviously it was very heavy there Saturday. The fact she was able to handle it well and come out of the race in good order gave us a bit of confidence about backing her up," he said.

"She's a really tough filly. She's a genuine staying type of filly. She was brilliant in her first couple of runs, but she is looking more dour this preparation and running more to her pedigree which would indicate she'd handle the mile and a half."

"She's a really tough filly. She's a genuine staying type of filly." - Kris Lees

McDonald will have some challenges from the wide barrier, but as the filly is a get-back-and-run on type, it should not be a serious concern.

Current favourite Chapada, who is by Frankel's three-quarter brother Bullet Train (GB), has also come up with a wide barrier in 13, while stablemate Arrogant (NZ) (Ocean Park {NZ}) will jump from barrier 12.

Doncaster dreaming

Lees' other top-line 3-year-old filly, El Dorado Dreaming (Ilovethiscity) also came up with a tough barrier for the G1 The Star Doncaster Mile.

The filly, who won the G1 Inglis Sires on this day last year, must come from barrier 20, while stablemate Le Romain (Hard Spun {USA}) jumps from barrier 17.

Le Romain

When asked to compare the hopes of his two Doncaster chances, Lees has a slight leaning towards the proven open class miler in Le Romain.

"She's very well in at the weights but he's got the runs on the board and is proven at this level, where she is stepping out of her comfort zone taking on the older horses. It’s always a big ask but with 49kg, it’s the right time to try her," he said

"He's got the runs on the board and is proven at this level." - Kris Lees

"(Le Romain) is in good order. He worked really well this morning, so he rarely lets us down and we’d expect him to run well Saturday."

Alizee (Sepoy) assumed favouritism for the race when the mare came up with barrier 12 in the capacity field of 20 plus four emergencies. Her Godolphin stablemate Hartnell (GB) (Authorized {Ire}), looking to complete the feature Randwick mile double, drew barrier 7, while two of the leading lightweight chances Brutal (NZ) (O'Reilly {NZ}) and Fifty Stars (Ire) (Sea The Stars {Ire}) came up with 21 and 24 respectively.