LE Romain emerged victorious in the Group 1 Canterbury BMW Stakes after a torrid battle with superstar Chautauqua down the Randwick straight.
Tommy Berry sat well off the speed aboard Chautauqua which was set by former New Zealand gelding Ugo Foscolo, before picking a path underneath runners coming around the home turn.
Berry quickly veered towards the outside rail and it looked to have the advantage of Le Romain over the final 100m, but the Kris Lees-trained gelding fought resolutely and got its nose down right on the line with Glyn Schofield in the saddle.
“My fellow was as keen to get to the outside as I was, maybe he had walked the track himself. But once I got there I thought I was going to win quite comfortably then geez Chautauqua, he challenged me quickly,” Schofield said.
“He probably put a neck on me but my fellow wasn’t going to lie down, he just really enjoyed, he dug down deep and was really close at the line, neither Tommy (Berry) or I was sure which way it had gone, but I’m glad it went my way.”
Schofield said Le Romain loves to fight, much like it did when winning the Southern Cross Stakes over Big Money last start.
“The fight is what he loves,” Schofield said. “I remember riding him before he won the (Randwick) Guineas last prep and he was a little bit toey early in his preparation but today he’s grown up, he’s matured and he’s a multiple group one winner and now we know why.”
Le Romain paid +350 at Sportsbet.com.au which put it on the third line of betting. Trainer Kris Lees was pleased with the four-year-old which he believes is a touch underrated.
“He is a really good horse, a pleasure to train, one of those uncomplicated geldings,” Lees said.
“He puts himself in the right spot, he is tough and he can run up to a mile. He gives himself every chance and now he has competed at weight-for-age.
“I said before he is a little bit underrated but never has been in our books.”
Lees initially thought Chautauqua had nabbed his runner on the line, but Le Romain had the momentum in its favour to score its third consecutive victory.
“It was an exciting finish and to beat a champion on the line is very satisfying. I thought he got beat,” Lees added.
There is plenty of confidence in the Lees Racing camp – so much so that Lees will now take on champion mare Winx in the Group 1 George Ryder Stakes.
“He’ll take on Winx in a couple of weeks but the Doncaster has been his aim from the time he came in.”
Despite being beaten in a narrow finish, Tommy Berry was jubilant about Chautauqua’s chances in the upcoming autumn carnival at Randwick in April.
“What he showed me today is that he will relax enough to go up to a Doncaster if they want to take that path with him,” Berry said.
“He wasn’t handling the track very well early, I couldn’t put him out of his comfort zone, I had to let him travel.
“You can see when he started to get confident in the going because that’s when he really picked up ground late.