Connections of Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner Lucia Valentina made the decision over the weekend to press on to a 2016 Cox Plate campaign over the breeding barn with the $4 million earning mare.
Newcastle trainer Kris Lees said up until Saturday night things were up in the air as to whether three-time Group 1 champion Lucia Valentina would retire from racing or press on with another season.
A $60,000 bargain buy by owner Lib Petanga, who also races the weekend’s Australian Oaks winning New Zealand-trained filly Sofia Rosa, five-year-old Lucia Valentina took her career earnings up over $4 million with her Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) victory at Randwick on Day 2 of ‘The Championships.’
It was her seventh win from 27 starts, and could have been her last with a lucrative career as a broodmare calling.
Having pulled through the gutsy win from Saturday, where she and jockey Damien Oliver raced away late to beat home The United States by over two lengths, the call to keep her in work with an eye on the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival and possibly even Hong Kong again in December.
“This preparation, we were always in two minds whether she’d race on,” Lees told Correct Weight on RSN 927 on Sunday.
“The owner’s made a decision last night that they’re going to give her another season.
“She’ll have a light preparation possibly into a Cox Plate or Mackinnon Stakes, and maybe even go to Hong Kong again, but that’s something we’ll discuss down the track.”
Lucia Valentina has contested the Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) in the past two spring carnivals running third to Admire Rakti in 2014 and ninth to Mongolian Khan last October.
This season however Lees is looking at a different target with Australasia’s weight-for-age championship, the $3 million Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley the most likely target.
Last year’s Cox Plate winner Winx was early Queen Elizabeth Stakes favourite before trainer Chris Waller made the call to save the Doncaster Mile winner for the spring.
October then could see a showdown between the two star mares with Lucia Valentina and Winx likely to meet in the Cox Plate, betting for which is already open online at Ladbrokes.com.au.
Winx dominates the all-in Cox Plate odds at $3.30 to go back-to-back in the classic for the first time since So You Think (2009-10).
Lucia Valentina meanwhile is a $26 shot in the futures markets.
Lees also hasn’t ruled out a second Hong Kong bid this summer with Lucia Valentina who raced in the Group 1 Hong Kong Cup (2000m) at Sha Tin last December running fifth to A Shin Hikari.
He credited his mare’s Queen Elizabeth Stakes success with a change in training tactics, which saw her run in the race second-up off a Newcastle trial over 1150m from March 29.
“It’s well documented she can be a bit plain second up, but that’s always over a shorter course,” Lees said.
“I just wanted to try and fool her in some way to think that [the trial] was her second up, and have her switched right on for her grand final.”
Lees also said much of his planning involved avoiding an earlier autumn clash with Winx, who ended up being a non-acceptor for the $4 million feature last weekend.
“I purposely trained her differently,” he said.
“She raced so well in Hong Kong in such a high grade race off a six-week turnaround.
“She won the Matriarch off a three-week gap.
“I was trying to think of some way to get over Winx, trying to come up with something different.
“I thought if I give her the four-week gap where she really races well with that space between runs, and at her preferred 2000m, it might switch her on for the day.”
Lucia Valentina is bred for Cox Plate success being a daughter of the 2004 winner Savabeel.
To back her to live up to her pedigree and to access all the upcoming Group 1 spring futures odds, head to Ladbrokes.com.au today!