Ace hoop Damien Oliver is excited to continue his association with Kris Lees’ dual Group 1 winning mare Lucia Valentina when she takes to the Sha Tin track overseas on December 13 for the 2015 Hong Kong Cup.
Oliver enjoyed success in the classic 21 years ago aboard the James Riley-trained State Taj (1994) and is keen to take it out again and stop the local Hong Kong-trained gallopers from securing a fifth straight win in the classic.
One of four elite levels on the Hong Kong International Race Day card next month, the Group 1 Hong Kong Cup (2000m) is set to feature a duo of David Hayes & Tom Dabernig-trained stablemates.
Leading the charge is last year’s third placegetter Criterion who also sits top of the current Hong Kong Cup odds at Ladbrokes.com.au paying $4.20 just ahead of the defending champion Designs On Rome ($4.50) and 2014 runner-up Military Attack ($7).
A winner of over $7 million in prize money, Criterion was last seen running a brave third to upset 101/1 winner Prince Of Penzance in the $6.2 million Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) over the two miles at Flemington on November 3.
Craig Williams, who last rode the son of Sebring for his third at Sha Tin in the Group 1 QEII Cup (2000m) in late April, is back aboard for his second bid this summer taking over for the five-year-old’s regular rider this campaign Michael Walker.
The other Lindsay Park-raced galloper Hong Kong Cup-bound is five-year-old Savabeel mare Lucia Valentina whose latest run produced a Flemington win on Emirates Stakes Day against her own kind in the Group 2 Matriarch Stakes (2000m) on November 7.
That was the $1.52 million earner’s maiden turf triumph since she became a dual Group 1 winner back in early October last year when she took out the Turnbull Stakes (2000m) at Flemington.
Hall of Famer Oliver rode Lucia Valentina for her Matriarch Stakes success earlier in the month, which was his first ever ride on the class mare.
Now he gets the chance to ride her again in the Hong Kong Cup, Lucia Valentina paying $9 in the all-in Hong Kong Cup betting markets firming in her price after being officially invited over the weekend.
“It’s always a great meeting to be at,” Oliver told Racing Victoria.
“Some of the best horses and jockeys from all around the world (are there), it’s an awesome meeting, and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Oliver last made an appearance at the Hong Kong International Race Day in 2013 when he ran second last in the Hong Kong Mile aboard Linton, and it has been 14 years since his last success at the meeting when he won the Hong Kong Sprint with Falvelon for the second straight year (2010-11).
He is hopeful of breaking the drought with Lucia Valentina who he rates an in-form chance who had excuses for her ninth in the Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) before her win in the Matriarch.
“I think she’d been running well, it was a good run in the Caulfield Cup when she drew wide and she made good ground in that race and I think she appreciated the little bit softer track at Flemington,” he said.
“I’m not sure we’re going to get that in Hong Kong but she’s going there in good form, so you can’t ask for more.”
To check out the full Hong Kong Cup betting markets on offer head to Ladbrokes.com.au and enjoy up to $500 in bonus bets on the house when you deposit and quote the code BETBONUS!