After a soft trial run at Wyong this week, Newcastle trainer Kris Lees has confirmed the George Ryder Stakes 2016 as the most likely first-up option for the stable’s class mare Lucia Valentina.
The five-year-old daughter of Savabeel contested a 1000m hit-out on Tuesday with Andrew Gibbons in the saddle and wasn’t pushed too hard when crossing three and a half lengths third to stablemate Marple Miss in the open trial.
She was left to drift to the back of the pack early along the inside before stretching out in the closing stages without any pressure put on her, Lees happy with the work.
“[She] did what I wanted her to do,” Lees told Racenet.
“[She will] either have another trial or an exhibition gallop [next].
“I was happy with that.”
A two-time Group 1 winner, Lucia Valentina was last seen running in her international debut at Sha Tin in December crossing a credible fifth to A Shin Hikari in the Group 1 Hong Kong Cup (2000m).
Her last turf triumph was in Flemington’s Group 2 Matriarch Stakes (2000m) on Emirates Stakes Day in November, a win that broke a lengthy drought going back to her victory in the 2014 Turnbull Stakes.
Nominated for a host of Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival majors over the two days of Royal Randwick’s ‘The Championships’ in April, Lees is looking at a returning run for the $1.65 million earner on Golden Slipper Stakes Day.
He has the $1 million Group 1 George Ryder Stakes (1500m) on March 19 at Rosehill pegged as her first-up assignment, a weight-for-age feature won last season by Japan’s Real Impact.
“At this stage we’re still heading towards the George Ryder first-up but there is a race every week now for a mare like this so we’ll be guided by how she continues to come along,” Lees said.
Lucia Valentina is entered for the $3 million Group 1 Doncaster Mile (1600m) on April 2 as well as two races the following Saturday.
Keeping the Group 1 Queen Of The Turf Stakes (1600m) as a Plan B back-up, Lees hopes to have her rock hard fit for a shot at the lucrative $4 million Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) on April 9.
She finished sixth to Criterion in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes last April, but is currently only rated a $51 outsider in futures betting at Ladbrokes.com.au to take it out this season.
The David Hayes & Tom Dabernig-trained Criterion, who also contested the Hong Kong Cup for a disappointing ninth in December, pays $9 to go back-to-back in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes for the first time since Grand Armee (2004-05).
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