Newcastle trainer Kris Lees has said he “can’t fault” his internationally performed mare Lucia Valentina heading into the 2016 Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Royal Randwick Racecourse this Saturday.
Lees is hoping the five-year-old daughter of Savabeel has what it takes to upset the markets and break a notable elite level drought with success in the $4 million Group 1 Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) on Day 2 of ‘The Championships’.
Without Chris Waller’s superlative star Winx in the mix, who is being saved for a spring return where she’ll look to add to her six Group 1 wins to date, there are just three mares in the capacity Queen Elizabeth Stakes field this Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival.
The shortest-priced of the trio on Queen Elizabeth Stakes betting at Ladbrokes.com.au, led by recent Ranvet Stakes winner The United States ($4.20), is $7 shot Lucia Valentina.
Originally prepared in New Zealand, she boasts two Australian Group 1 victories in the 2014 Vinery Stud Stakes and Turnbull Stakes both over 2000m.
Also proving her staying power when third in that year’s Caulfield Cup over the mile and a half, Lucia Valentina finished a mid-field sixth behind Criterion in last season’s Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
Since then she has won just one of her starts over the past 12 months saluting in Flemington’s Group 2 Matriarch Stakes (2000m) last Melbourne Cup Carnival.
She did catch the eye next run however when far from disgraced crossing fifth in the Group 1 Hong Kong Cup (2000m) at Sha Tin in December.
This time in she has had just the one run when fourth, beaten only one and a half lengths by Peeping in Rosehill’s Group 1 Coolmore Classic (1500m).
Runner-up in a 1150m barrier trial at home on March 29 behind Supreme Effort, a Kim Waugh-trained galloper contesting the $400,000 The Provincial Championships Final (1400m) on Saturday, Lucia Valentina has been prepared for another Queen Elizabeth run differently than last autumn in an attempt to get her back to her best.
“I wanted to do something different with her coming into this race,” Lees told Racenet this week.
“If you look at her second-up and third-up records they are at opposite ends of the spectrum so I took that on board when building her preparation.
“She’s always gone second-up after two weeks so I decided I’d give her the four weeks between the first-up run and this Saturday with a trial in between.
“Previously when I’ve spaced her runs, into the Matriarch and Hong Kong, she’s performed well.”
On the weekend Lucia Valentina drops from 58kg in the Coolmore to 57kg at weight-for-age and has four-time Queen Elizabeth Stakes winning jockey Damien Oliver aboard who shoots for his first winning ride since Road To Rock (2010).
Lees is hopeful things work in her favour as she prepares to take on the reigning Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner Criterion ($8) again and believes she is going better than this time last year.
“I can’t fault her and she’s definitely going better than she was last year,” he said.
“With Winx not there, it looks an open race and it’s questionable how some of the better credentialed horses are going.
“She loves a soft track and she’s twice a Group I winner third-up so that’s what I’ve tried to replicate without giving her the extra race start.”
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