Oct 20, 2016
NEWCASTLE: Thursday, October 20, 2016: The tempo – or apparent lack of it – will be crucial to Lucia Valentina’s chances in Saturday’s $3m Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley.
So says her trainer Kris Lees, who is convinced his classy mare is “in the same form” as when she romped away with the $4m Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) on a soft track at Royal Randwick in April.
“I’ve got no doubt Lucia Valentina is as good now as she was when she won the Queen Elizabeth in the autumn,” Lees said soon after arriving back in Melbourne today to put the finishing touches to her preparation for the Group 1 classic.
“But, to be fair, the Cox Plate is definitely a stronger race, with Winx and Hartnell obviously the top two.
“There doesn’t look to be a lot of pace, and that’s clearly a concern for us. If they do run along, then it will give the mare her chance.
“If they don’t, it will be difficult and is probably a Top 5 hope at best. Irrespective, she has had a great preparation and is ready to run well.
“I’m obviously delighted to have another live chance (Lees finished third with Samantha Miss to Maldivian in the 2008Cox Plate) in such a great race.”
Lees is also hoping tomorrow’s forecast rain eventuates, especially in view of Lucia Valentina’s renowned wet track prowess.
Kerrin McEvoy rides Lucia Valentina, whilst Hugh Bowman partners stablemate Felines in Saturday’s City Jeep Handicap (955m).
“Felines has topweight (60kg), but hopefully the inside barrier will be a big help,” Lees said.
“She is in good order. We’re just going to need some luck when it matters.”
Lees is resigned to Rosa Carolina (fourth emergency) not securing a start in the Listed Crockett Stakes (1200m) and has a contingency plan to run her at Moonee Valley next Friday night if she misses out.
Consistent sprinter Invitations (Tim Clark) is his sole runner at Saturday’s Randwick meeting.
Lees had planned to use his claiming apprentice Sam Clenton(she was injured in a Scone fall last Friday) to offset the gelding’s 61kg topweight in the Benchmark 76 Handicap (1000m).
Invitations hasn’t raced since scoring over the same course at Randwick in early August, and finished third to stablemate Guard Of Honour in a Wyong barrier trial (1000m) on October 4.
“There is only a 5kg spread in the weights, and it’s a 1000m race,” Lees said, explaining his decision to book senior jockey Clark.
“Invitations has done a good job for us, and has won first-up previously. I’m expecting him to race well.”
Lees has two acceptors for tomorrow night’s Canterbury fixture, but Beretta will be an absentee because of his outside draw.
Import Game Pie (Josh Parr) runs in the Benchmark 70 Handicap (1500m). “He hit the line well when third (to Acatour) at Rosehill recently, and is going well,” Lees said.
“Whilst he is up in weight, this looks an easier assignment.”