Kris Lees’ flying mare Lucia Valentina was one of the big winners in the 2014 Melbourne Cup barrier draw on Saturday afternoon, the Caulfield Cup placegetter out to win the ‘race that stops a nation’ from barrier two.
In a strange barrier draw for this year’s $6.2 million Group 1 Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m), running at Flemington on Tuesday, all the bad gates seemed to go very early in the piece.
When it came time for connections to draw for Savabeel four-year-old Lucia Valentina, they sent up the little girl the horse was named after, another Lucia Valentina!
The pint sized connection did a brilliant job for the team too selecting the miniature ‘Loving Trophy’ with the number two on the bottom.
While inside barriers can often be a bit trickier in large fields like the 24-starter Melbourne Cup line-up, it should suit Lucia Valentina, who does her best racing from between barrier two and six, to a tee.
She jumped from barrier two in the Group 1 ATC Oaks (2400m) in the autumn as a three-year-old and was a very close third to Rising Romance.
This season her two wins, from four runs, were both from barrier five including her Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) victory over the two Peter Moody-trained Melbourne Cup runners Lidari and Brambles.
Last time out Lucia Valentina was drawn wider in gate 10 of 18 for the Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) on October 18 where she got out over a mile and a half for the first time since the Oaks.
She and regular rider Kerrin McEvoy got caught wide over the closing stages but tracked well with the subsequent Japanese-trained winner Admire Rakti and ran a brave third under a length away behind the now Melbourne Cup favourite and runner-up, ATC Oaks winner Rising Romance.
In the Caulfield Cup, which has been the most telling Melbourne Cup form line to follow over the years, the beaten favourite carried 53kg.
On Tuesday in the Melbourne Cup weights she gets in well again with the same 53kg while Admire Rakti rises to 58.5kg and will be out to be the first winner with that weight since the Bart Cummings-trained Think Big back in 1975.
In the latest Melbourne Cup betting markets there are five single figure hopes with Admire Rakti leading the way on $5.
Lucia Valentina then occupies the second line of the Melbourne Cup odds at $7, McEvoy staying on as he shoots for his second trophy to add to that won on the Michael Moroney-trained Brew back in 2000.
Owner Lib Petagna was just thrilled to have this mare in the race with Lucia Valentina only having debuted in October last year in New Zealand under her former trainer Stephen Marsh.
“It’s a great thrill,” he said.
“She only started racing just over 12 months ago.”
Petagna was also quick to credit the efforts of her Newcastle-based trainer Lees who took over form Marsh when the mare was brought across the Tasman early this autumn.
“He’s done an amazing job,” he said.
“Everything’s gone like clockwork.”
There are three mares in the race this year and the last female Melbourne Cup winner was Makybe Diva who won her third on the trot back in 2005.
Before Makybe Diva’s reign the mares were holding their own with Jezabeel (1998) and Ethereal (2001) also beating home the boys in recent times.
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