Newcastle horseman Kris Lees’ assistant trainer Mal Ollerton confirmed Lucia Valentina had settled into her Sha Tin base well and “feels good” ahead of Sunday’s 2015 Hong Kong Cup.
One of two Australian-trained gallopers in this year’s Group 1 Hong Kong Cup (2000m) field along with Cox Plate runner-up Criterion, the five-year-old Savabeel mare was last seen winning the Group 2 Matriarch Stakes (2000m) over the distance at Flemington on Emirates Stakes Day.
A dual Group 1 winner with victories in the 2014 Vinery Stakes and 2014 Turnbull Stakes, the former Kiwi galloper has top form over 2000m and looks on track for her international debut on Hong Kong International Race Day.
A $15 chance in Hong Kong Cup betting at Ladbrokes.com.au, markets led by the defending champion Designs On Rome ($5), Lucia Valentina is set to have her Matriarch Stakes winning hoop Damien Oliver continue his association with her this Sunday.
She cantered on the all-weather track at Sha Tin on Tuesday morning impressing Ollerton who was on her back for the hit-out.
“She feels good and seems happy. She’ll have a gallop tomorrow when Kris comes in,” he told The Hong Kong Jockey Club.
Shorter in the Hong Kong Cup odds at $5.50, the David Hayes & Tom Dabernig-trained Criterion also worked at the track after settling into his overseas surroundings without a worry.
“He had a nice easy morning. He’s around his optimum race weight and he’s settled in well again,” co-trainer Hayes said.
“He’s the seasoned traveller now and I’d say his constitution has improved as the year has gone on. We’ve had him for a year now and what a year it’s been.
“He’ll do a little bit of work tomorrow.”
A winner of over $7.19 million in prize money, the five-year-old Sebring stallion has had two previous runs at Sha Tin for two Group 1 thirds over the same track and distance as Sunday’s assignment.
He was beaten just a length in last year’s Hong Kong Cup before a brave effort behind Blazing Speed in the Group 1 QEII Cup (2000m) earlier this year.
Criterion’s Melbourne form this spring has been top notch with a Group 1 Caulfield Stakes (2000m) victory first-up followed by a second to Winx in the Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) and his third in the Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) over the two miles on the first Tuesday of November.
The other Sunday showdown featuring Australian representation is the Group 1 Hong Kong Vase (2400m) where Chris Waller saddles-up his 2014 Victoria Derby winner Preferment.
Despite a disappointing Cox Plate ninth and Melbourne Cup 20th in his final two lead-up runs at home, the Zabeel four-year-old is well fancied in the Hong Kong Vase odds paying $6.
Markets are led by the Andrea Fabre-trained Flintshire ($2.75) who ran second to Golden Horn in the Group 1 Prix De L’arc De Triomphe in France.
Preferment is then equal second elect with Irish galloper Highland Reel who ran third in the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley on October 24.
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