Newcastle’s Kris Lees has described the first-up run for his stellar mare Lucia Valentina in Saturday’s 2016 Warwick Stakes as “daunting” as she prepares to take on another champion in Winx.
Both mares are heading towards a Melbourne run in the $3 million Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley Racecourse on October 22, a weight-for-age classic won by the Chris Waller-trained Winx last season.
Winx has won her past nine races including six Group 1 victories and is out to keep the winning streak going first-up at Royal Randwick in this weekend’s $250,000 Group 2 Warwick Stakes (1400m).
Australia’s highest-rated racehorse, Winx is a genuine “super mare” according to rival trainer Lees who saddles-up second favourite in the Warwick Stakes markets Lucia Valentina.
Both runners took out an elite level last start during the autumn at the track.
Winx enjoyed a two length romp home on April 2 in the Group 1 Doncaster Mile (1600m), while Lees’ daughter of Savabeel Lucia Valentina posted an equally impressive two and a quarter-length win over The United States in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) the following Saturday.
All the money is on Waller’s flyer for Saturday however with Hugh Bowman to ride Winx from barrier four.
She is the $1.35 favourite in the current Warwick Stakes odds at Ladbrokes.com.au, while Lucia Valentina has firmed in slightly from $6 to $5.50 to score the upset.
Plenty of statistics point to a Winx win including her star Randwick record (9-5-3-0), ability over the distance (4-2-1-0) and her fresh form (5-4-0-0).
Lucia Valentina on the other hand has won two from nine at the track, one from five at the distance and two from six of her previous first-up assignments.
Waller put Winx through her paces in a final hit-out up the Rosehill straight on Thursday morning with Bowman aboard.
Not wanting to give her a gut-buster, Bowman held the mare back and Waller couldn’t be happier with her fitness or the way her lead-up has gone.
“The preparation has been faultless,” he said.
Lees is also happy with how his six-year-old Lucia Valentina is tracking and was pleased to see her and jockey Kerrin McEvoy draw the inside alley in a small seven-starter Warwick Stakes field.
That said, he believes Lucia Valentina and the rest of the field are running for second behind the favourite.
“It’s always a daunting task, she’s a super mare,” Lees told Sky Racing of racing against Winx.
“She’s a lot more adaptable than Lucia Valentina is.
She’s very one dimensional our mare, so we know where we’ll be in the run.
“Looking at the race on paper, you would think it’s going to be a hard task for our mare but as long as she’s strong late and gives us a good guide to where she’s at.”
Winx is also the dominant $2.70 favourite in the all-in Cox Plate betting odds, while Lucia Valentina is the $15 second favourite with last year’s third-placegetter Highland Reel.
Lees has the $500,000 Group 1 Underwood Stakes (1800m) at Caulfield Racecourse on September 24 scheduled as the Cox Plate lead-up for Lucia Valentina.
Back the spring’s class mares this weekend and further ahead in their upcoming Group 1 assignments online through Ladbrokes.com.au at the hottest odds today!