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Broadmeadow trainer Kris Lees is excited about Saturday’s Australian Derby Day meeting as he will get to assess the 2013 Australian Oaks chances of two of his fillies when Gold Epona and Express Power race in the $125,000 Group 3 Adrian Knox Stakes (2000m).
Running as Royal Randwick Race 3 at 1:10pm (AEST) the Adrian Knox Stakes is a traditional final lead-up for three-year-old fillies heading towards the $550,000 Group 1 Australian Oaks (2400m) back at the track the following Saturday, which is the Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival grand final aim for Lees’ duo.
Both Stratum filly Gold Epona and stablemate Express Power, part of the powerful prodigy of Snitzel, are rated a $15 chance in the Adrian Knox Stakes odds which are led by Unimpeachable ($4.20).
As for Saturday week’s Australian Oaks betting markets the pair pay $61, a price that is sure to firm if they can be competitive in their next race.
“I am really pleased with both fillies and Saturday is their moment of truth to see if they are up to Oaks class,” Lees said.
“This is the second level of staying filly so far.
“Realistically a filly would need to win or be very competitive in this Group 3 race to warrant going to the Oaks.”
Drawn out wide in barrier 12, into 11 with the early scratching of #14 Reply Churlish, Gold Epona has been racing well this time in with their only unplaced effort being on a Heavy (9) track at Warwick Farm in February.
They were stepped up to Group company for the first time last start on March 24 and handled the class rise without issue crossing under two lengths away third to Cameo and Royal Descent, the second of which is the $6 second pick for the Adrian Knox, in the Group 3 Keith Nolan Classic (1600m) at Kembla Grange.
Express Power meanwhile is yet to race in a black type which will change on Saturday when they jump from barrier 14 with Hall of Famer Jim Cassidy in the saddle.
Last start they posted their third career win from seven starts over 1550m at Canterbury and must handle not only the Group field but the step up to 2000m on Derby Day.
If anyone knows how to train an Oaks winner too it is Lees who prepared 2008 Victorian Crown Oaks winner Samantha Miss and Queensland Oaks champ Vitesse Dane to victory back in 2005 – the trainer out for his first Australian Oaks success this year.
He is having trouble separating which one he better fancies this weekend too not sure whether to tip experience or progression.
“Gold Epona has the stronger form line but Express Power is getting better with every run, she is on the way up,” he said.
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