Kerrin McEvoy has picked up the Warwick Stakes 2016 ride Saturday week aboard Lucia Valentina after fellow hoop Damien Oliver turned down the Sydney mount.
Oliver has opted to stay in Melbourne on August 20 for Moonee Valley rides on a couple of promising youngsters – Verstappen and Monkey Magic – over heading to Royal Randwick to partner the Kris Lees-trained Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner first-up.
Six-year-old Savabeel mare Lucia Valentina kicks off her spring campaign with a tough test against Chris Waller’s Cox Plate champion Winx in a star-studded edition of $250,000 Group 2 Warwick Stakes (1400m).
Oliver rode the $4.1 million earner for her latest win in Sydney’s lucrative Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) back in April, but won’t be aboard for her resuming run.
Instead McEvoy will be reacquainted with the triple Group 1 winner for the first time since he partnered her for a 13th behind German raider Protectionist in the Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) back in 2014.
That was the fifth straight ride on Lucia Valentina by McEvoy that season, the duo also enjoying a first-up Randwick win over Tiger Tees in the Group 2 Tramway Stakes (1400m) as well the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) win at Flemington.
He was also in the saddle for her George Main Stakes fifth and close third behind Japanese winner Admire Rakti when beaten under a length in the 2014 edition of the $3 million Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m).
“Kerrin has got a good association with the mare and has ridden her plenty of times in the past so there is no issue at all,” Newcastle trainer Lees told Racing Victoria.
“I’d say at this stage we are likely to run in the Warwick Stakes, I’ll also nominate for the Show County but would only go that way if the weather means we miss a gallop next week.”
Held at the Warwick Stakes Day meeting, the $125,000 Group 3 Show County Quality (1200m) is contested over 200m shorter under handicap conditions and has been won by the likes of Terravista (2014) and Rebel Dane (2013).
This season Lucia Valentina’s main aim is the $3 million Group 1 W.S. Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley Racecourse on October 22.
Winx is dominant $2.70 favourite in all-in Cox Plate betting to go back-to-back in the “race where champions are made”, while Lucia Valentina occupies the second line at $15 to post the upset.
McEvoy will get the chance to secure the Cox Plate ride, his eighth in Australasia’s weight-for-age championship, aboard Lucia Valentina should he get her first past the post over Winx in the Warwick Stakes.
The Cox Plate mission will come third-up for Lucia Valentina with Lees outlining a program that will see her race second-up the $500,000 Group 1 Underwood Stakes (1800m) at Caulfield Racecourse on September 24.
“She is carrying a bit more condition going in to this race than she was first-up last preparation because leading in to the Coolmore Classic she had been to Hong Kong [for a fifth in the 2015 Hong Kong Cup] and never really had a spell,” Lees explained.
“We kept her in work after she came out of quarantine so was quite forward in to her first-up run.
“She has won a Tramway first-up at 1400m on a wet track in the past so I think she can race well, we just have to take on Winx.”
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