Feb 13, 2015
NEWCASTLE: Friday, February 13, 2015: The possibility of showers and storms later today in Sydney has been welcomed by Lucia Valentina's trainer Kris Lees.
The mare opens her autumn campaign in tomorrow's $250,000 Group 2 wfa Apollo Stakes (1400m) at Randwick, which this morning was rated a "Soft 5" following 6mm in the last 24 hours.
New Zealand-owned Lucia Valentina revelled in the heavy ground beginning her spring preparation when she overpowered her rivals over the Apollo course last September in the Group 2 Tramway Stakes. She later won the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) success at Flemington and finished an excellent third in the Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m).
Despite the mare's excellent first-up record, Lees is not placing huge expectations on her this time.
"She is not quite where she was at for her first-up run last spring when she had two trials leading into the Tramway and, of course, the heavy ground suited her," he said.
"I have trialled her only once this time (at Broadmeadow on February 2) and I was pleased with her and so was Hugh Bowman.
"Obviously, if there is more rain in Sydney, it is certainly going to help her.
"She has come back much stronger. There's no doubting her quality and she has an excellent turn of foot.
"It's a good test for her under weight-for-age conditions, but I'm sure she will run well."
Lees, clearly enjoying his best season of training (Olympic Academy was his 76th winner at Canterbury on Wednesday), has five Randwick runners, and likes the prospects of Selectify (Bowman) and Onemorezeta (Christian Reith).
Selectify, unbeaten at three starts for Lees, opens the stable's batting in the Benchmark 80 Handicap. He is being aimed at the $300,000 Provincial Championship Final (1400m) at Randwick on April 11.
Selectify hasn't raced since scoring over 1200m at Warwick Farm on December 24.
"He has freshened up nicely and trialled strongly here last week," Lees said. "I expect him to be hard to beat."
Selectify is likely to run in the first Provincial Championship Qualifier (1200m) - worth $100,000 - at Wyong on March 5.
Lees is rapt with the way Onemorezeta is shaping for her return in the Group 2 Light Fingers Stakes (1200m).
The lightly-raced filly went from winning a Muswellbrook Maiden in September to a Group 3 success at the Melbourne Cup carnival at Flemington.
"I feel she has made the most improvement of my horses from the spring," Lees said.
"She trialled impressively here last week. This is another step, but she is a genuine sprinter.
"This race will tell us whether we can stretch her to 1400m during the autumn."
Stablemates Thump (Tye Angland) and Hera (James McDonald) both will run in the Group 3 Triscay Stakes (1200m).
Hera was withdrawn from a Rosehill engagement last Saturday, but is ready to begin a new campaign and, like Lucia Valentina, will be better suited if the rain arrives.
Thump, a Group 2 winner against her own sex last autumn, raced well below par in two outings nearing spring last year and was spelled.
She chased home Onemorezeta in a 900m trial at home last Monday week, indicating she may be on the way back. Her first-up record reads one win from five resumptions.