Dual Group 1 winning mare Lucia Valentina made the trip from Melbourne to Sha Tin ahead of Sunday week’s Hong Kong Cup 2015 in fine order according to her Newcastle-based trainer Kris Lees.
Lees was pleased with the way the five-year-old daughter of Savabeel, a winner of over $1.5 million in prize money over her 24 start career to date, came through the flight on Monday with Lucia Valentina handling the trip without issue.
“She travelled in good order, she drank plenty of water on the plane and she got there looking quite well,” Lees told Racing Ahead on RSN.
“She’s pretty seasoned – it would be a similar timeframe from probably my base to Caulfield as what she spent on the plane so she’s handled it pretty well and she’s had trips over from New Zealand as well.”
Last seen posting the sixth win of her career at Flemington on Emirates Stakes Day in the Group 2 Matriarch Stakes (2000m), she goes over the same distance again for her international debut in the lucrative Group 1 Hong Kong Cup (2000m) on December 13.
The distance is her preferred according to Lees, the mare having had six 2000m runs for three wins including both of her elite level successes in the 2014 Vinery Stud Stakes in Sydney and the Turnbull Stakes in Melbourne.
“Looking at the race on paper, it looks a really tough race but it’s at her pet distance and she’s raced herself into some type of form,” he said.
While she travelled well, thrives over 2000m and comes off a Melbourne Cup Carnival win there is still a big challenge for Lucia Valentina in the Hong Kong Cup.
She faces a red hot field and Lees is well aware of the class of competitors she is up against at Sha Tin Racecourse in the Hong Kong International Race Day feature.
“I’m under no illusions – she’s taking on some of the better horses in the world,” Lees said.
“I think she’ll be competitive but it’s a very tough race.”
That said, Lees believes he has his runner as fit as she can be ahead of the international test.
“She had a good searching gallop on Saturday morning before she left,” he said.
“She’s a mare that doesn’t take a great deal of work, so we’ll let her settle in for this week and she may have a look around the course proper early next week.”
Currently Lucia Valentina pays $15 through Ladbrokes.com.au in the early Hong Kong Cup odds that are led by Dermot Weld’s Irish galloper Free Eagle ($4.60) and the locally-trained defending champion Designs On Rome ($4.80).
The other Australian-trained galloper in the line-up is David Hayes & Tom Dabernig’s third placegetter in the race 12 months ago Criterion who occupies the third line of Hong Kong Cup betting at $5.50.
From two runs over the 2000m at Sha Tin the $7.19 million earning Sebring stallion has twice run third, most recently behind Blazing Speed in the Group 1 QEII Cup (2000m) on April 26.
This campaign back home he won the Group 1 Caulfield Stakes (2000m) first-up before a second in the Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) and a brave third beaten only 1.25 lengths by Prince Of Penzance ($101) in the ‘race that stops a nation’ – the $6.2 million Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) over the two miles at Flemington on November 3.
Lucia Valentina and Criterion travelled over on the same flight from Melbourne as French raider, the OTI Racing-owned Gailo Chop who pays $11 for the Hong Kong win after his victory at 8/1 in the Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) at Flemington on Victoria Derby Day.
Since its inauguration in 1988 when local champ Flying Dancer won, the Hong Kong Cup has been won by just one Australian-trained horse back in 1994 with Damien Oliver rode the James L. Riley-prepared five-year-old State Taj to victory.
Hong Kong horses have won the past four straight editions with California Memory going back-to-back in 2011-12 followed by Akeed Mofeed (2013) who was ridden by Douglas Whyte, in Australia this Saturday riding Neverland as he seeks back-to-back Group 1 Kingston Town Classic (1800m) wins in Perth, and the aforementioned Designs On Rome last year for Aussie expat John Moore.
Get behind the Aussie contingent at Sha Tin on the 13th online at Ladbrokes.com.au where first time depositing players are also rewarded with up to $500 in bonus bets when they quote the limited-time-only promo code BETBONUS!