After a slashing fifth for her international debut in the Hong Kong Cup the Kris Lees-trained Lucia Valentina is gearing up for an autumn campaign targeting the lucrative Queen Elizabeth Stakes 2015 in Sydney.
A dual Group 1 champion and winner of over $1.65 million in prize money over her 25 starts to date, Lees’ five-year-old daughter of Savabeel headed to Sha Tin for the Hong Kong International Race Day a fortnight ago.
On the back of her sixth career success in the Group 2 Matriarch Stakes (2000m), Lucia Valentina ran one of her best ever races to finish fifth behind upset winner A Shin Hikari in the Group 1 Hong Kong Cup (2000m).
Australian hoop Damien Oliver was over in Hong Kong for the ride and said the run by the mare was good enough to win eight out of 10 Group 1 races down under.
She returns back home next month and will be prepared for a Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival preparation.
A two week stint in quarantine will follow her touching back down in Australia at Werribee in Victoria before she is back in pre-training at Lee’s Ettalong establishment in the Hunter Valley.
“I’ll start pre-training her out of a yard, using the aquasizer for about a fortnight before she returns to the stables at Broadmeadow,” Lees told Racenet this week.
“She’s not the sort of horse that needs much paddock rest.”
The logical aim for her over the coming months is Royal Randwick’s $4 million Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) during The Championships, the weight-for-age classic the richest race of the autumn.
Lees aims for his maiden win in the race and Lucia Valentina will be out to join More Joyous (2012) as the only Queen Elizabeth Stakes winning mares since Dinky Flyer back in 1987.
“The Hong Kong trip confirmed our thoughts that she’s the sort of mare that’s effective with her runs spaced,” Lees said of Lucia Valentina and her upcoming prep.
“She’s not the most robust of horses and has always performed well fresh but the Hong Kong experience showed us she can do it over 2000m.
“Knowing that now we are going to run in the George Ryder then go straight into the Queen Elizabeth.”
The $1 million Group 1 George Ryder Stakes (1500m) runs at Rosehill Gardens on Golden Slipper Day, March 19, and Lucia Valentina will be the Newcastle-based Lees’ maiden starter in the weight-for-age event.
All going well Lees said Lucia Valentina might also continue onto Queensland for a Brisbane Winter Racing Carnival assault running in the $650,000 Group 1 Doomben Cup (2000m) in Brisbane in early May won this year by the Gai Waterhouse-trained Pornichet.
Futures Queen Elizabeth Stakes odds are led by another mare, Chris Waller’s history making Cox Plate winner this spring Winx.
Also high up the early markets are the likes of Highland Reel and Criterion who, like Lucia Valentina, are Hong Kong International Race Day graduates.
The David Hayes & Tom Dabernig-trained $7.19 million earner Criterion, third in this year’s Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) over the two miles, dropped back to 2000m for the Hong Kong Cup.
He and jockey Craig Williams were blocked for a run and could only manage to finish five and a half lengths away ninth, the Sebring stallion’s first unplaced runs from three starts at the track.
Irish raider Highland Reel meanwhile backed up from a nice Cox Plate third in the Group 1 Hong Kong Vase (2400m) where the Aidan O’Brien-trained Galileo stallion stole the show with a one and a half length win.
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