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After a third to the Japanese-trained winner 12 months ago as the beaten favourite, the Kris Lees-trained mare Lucia Valentina is on track to handle another shot at the 2015 Caulfield Cup this weekend in Melbourne.
The now five-year-old daughter of Savabeel is one of a capacity field of stayers set to face off in Caulfield Race 7 this Saturday in the $3 million Group 1 BMW Caulfield Cup (2400m), barriers for which are released late on Tuesday afternoon.
There are five mares in the mix for the 2015 edition of the famous mile and a half handicap out to become the first Caulfield Cup winning mare since Southern Speed (2011).
The longest priced of the three paying $26 in the latest Caulfield Cup odds at Ladbrokes.com.au, where punters will win more thanks to their exclusive Best Tote or SP + 20% markets open on ALL Caulfield Cup Day races, is Newcastle visitor Lucia Valentina.
Last Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival she backed up from a win in the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) at Flemington, a race that has produced four of the past six Caulfield Cup winners, to cross a brave third behind the ill-fated Admire Rakti when beaten under a length as the punters’ pick.
She hasn’t won a race since last year’s Turnbull Stakes, and a second shot at Caulfield Cup glory was nearly taken off the cards after her flat eighth behind the Chris Waller-trained Winx in the Group 1 Epsom Handicap (1600m) over the mile at Randwick on October 3.
Since then however she has performed well in a Caulfield gallop on Tuesday morning, impressing Lees and encouraging he and connections to press onto the Caulfield Cup stepping her up from 1600m to 2400m in an unusual spring preparation.
“She worked over 1400m with Set Square and they came home their last 600 in pretty slick time and it looked a good gallop,” Lees told Racing Victoria.
“She pulled up well, she’s a very clean-winded mare and she’s come through the gallop in good order so we’ll push on to the race.”
Happy to excuse her Epsom disappointment Lees confirmed directions to Saturday’s hoop Dwayne Dunn, who takes over for Zac Purton who rides the Japan raider Fame Game ($8.50) shooting for back-to-back Caulfield Cup winning mounts, would be to ride her colder than in Sydney last time out.
“We rode her a little bit closer in the Epsom and I think we’ve got to ride her in a more negative manner because I think that’s when she really lets down,” he said.
“It’s a little bit unorthodox going from a mile (1600m) straight to 2400 but she’s the type of mare that should handle it OK.”
The other mares in the mix are Gust Of Wind ($17), Chris Waller‘s super-consistent Royal Descent ($16) who ran second in the Turnbull, the Kiwi expat Rising Romance ($13) who was runner-up in last year’s Caulfield Cup quinella and Ciaron Maher’s last start Turnbull Stakes third placed Reset four-year-old Set Square ($9) who gets in on the 51kg light weight.
Lees meanwhile also saddles-up former German-trained galloper Protectionist, the equal 58kg top weight with European raider Snow Sky, who shoots for his first win since taking out the Melbourne Cup over the two miles last November.
“I wouldn’t have thought he could show up in the Caulfield Cup unless they went break-neck speed but this will top him off nicely for the Melbourne Cup,” Lees admitted.
Current Caulfield Cup favourite paying $4.80 for the win is the New Zealand-trained four-year-old Mongolian Khan whose latest win was in the Group 1 ATC Derby (2400m) at this distance in Sydney during the autumn.
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