Mar 20, 2015
NEWCASTLE: Friday, March 20, 2015: TRAINER Kris Lees is banking on Lucia Valentina's flawless third-up record hoisting her back into winning form at Rosehill tomorrow. And he believes the small field in the $500,000 Group 1 Ranvet Stakes (2000m) is in her favour.
Only seven horses will contest the Ranvet - Lucia Valentina and New Zealander Silent Achiever are the two "girls" against the boys - and Lees' mare is currently $6.50 with TAB.com.au.
Contributer, who has won both races Lucia Valentina has contested this preparation, is the $2.30 favourite.
Lucia Valentina made good ground when a first-up fourth in the Group 2 Apollo Stakes (1400m) at Randwick on February 14 then didn't really "fire" when ninth - beaten 3.5 lengths - in the Group 1 Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m) at Warwick Farm a fortnight later. As with the Ranvet, both were run under weight-for-age conditions.
Lucia Valentina has won five of her 16 starts - and, importantly, is unbeaten third-up on three occasions (the first in New Zealand and then twice since joining Lees' stable).
Each time, she has been unplaced second-up before bouncing back.
"I thought the mare could have finished a bit closer in the Chipping Norton, but it's clear she races a bit flat at her second run in," Lees said.
"I can't fault her progress since, and 2000m looks her ideal journey.
"I feel the small field in the Ranvet is on her side. She won't have as much traffic to contend with."
Hugh Bowman again partners Lucia Valentina, who will continue to the $4m Queen Elizabeth Stakes - also over 2000m - at Randwick on April 11 provided she performs up to expectations tomorrow.
Lees has four Rosehill runners - and has made gear changes on two of them.
He starts Fine Bubbles (Jim Cassidy) and Brook Road (James McDonald) in the Group 3 Birthday Card Stakes (1200m), and Gosford Cup runner-up Oriental Lady (Chad Schofield) in the Group 3 Epona Stakes (1900m).
Lees will race Brook Road without winkers, whilst blinkers will be applied to Oriental Lady.
"Brook Road raced a bit fiercely first-up," he said. "We'll try and ride her a bit more conservatively tomorrow.
"I was really pleased with Fine Bubbles' first-up run. She loomed up strongly over the rise at Randwick before tiring, and still finished in front of Brook Road. She has trained on well."
As for Oriental Lady, Lees is hoping the blinkers will help her focus better.
The imported mare has been consistent, and was given a 900m trial at Cessnock on March 9 in between her fifth to Centre Pivot over 2000m at Rosehill on February 7 and tomorrow's assignment.
Schofield rode Lucia Valentina for Lees in last year's Group 1 Coolmore Classic at Rosehill, and also stablemate Marple Miss when she raced at Caulfield on February 28.
Melbourne Cup winner Protectionist has done well this week since returning from Melbourne, and will run in next Saturday's $1.5m Group 1 The BMW (2400m) at Rosehill, with Craig Williams expected to retain the mount.
"I'll talk with the boys (owners Australian Bloodstock) later today, but it's likely Craig will ride the horse again next week."
Williams rode Protectionist at his Australian debut (when prepared by Germany's Andreas Wohler) when an eye-catching Caulfield fourth last October before bolting away with the Melbourne Cup (3200m) under Englishman Ryan Moore.
Williams has partnered the stallion in his two recent Melbourne starts, the latest when eighth to Spillway in last Saturday's wfa Australian Cup (2000m) at Flemington. At this stage, Protectionist will go on to the $1.6m Sydney Cup (3200m) at Randwick on April 11.