Lucia Valentina will return to racing in the 2015 Apollo Stakes at Royal Randwick on Saturday and the talented mare impressed trainer Kris Lees with her final piece of serious trackwork ahead of the Group 2 event.
Lucia Valentina has not been seen at the races since he finished a tough 13th in the Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington on November 4, but according to Lees has come up well ahead of the start of her autumn campaign.
The Savabeel mare started her 2014 Spring Racing Carnival with a fast-finishing victory in the Group 1 Tramway Stakes (1400m) over the same track and distance as the Group 2 Apollo Stakes (1400m) and although Lees does not think the four-year-old is as forward for this weekend’s race, he is still expecting a strong effort from his star mare.
“She as nice and keen,” Lees said.
“We didn’t want to do too much and she would have run time if we let her, but we will save that for Saturday hopefully.
“She is coming up quite well, but I only have her one trial and I gave her two trials last time.
“She was probably a little more forward last preparation, but that said she is in really good order and she is going to the races about 15 kilos heavier this time around.
“It will come down to the pace of the race and certain things, she is a backmarker so there are all those variables, but I am expecting her to run well.
“It looks a really good race on paper.”
Kerrin McEvoy rode Lucia Valentina in her five race starts during the 2014 Spring Racing Carnival, but leading Sydney jockey Hugh Bowman is set to reunite with the four-year-old for her autumn preparation after winning the Group 1 Vinery Stud Stakes (2000m) with her last autumn.
Bowman partnered Lucia Valentina in a barrier trial over 900 metres at Newcastle on February 2 and Lees is taking confidence from the fact that the highly sort after hoop has committed to riding the dual Group 1 winner in the 2015 Apollo Stakes.
“I think that it was important for him because he decided to ride her,” Bowman said.
“He had plenty of options.
“He has ridden her plenty of times in races and it wasn’t that important for me, but I was glad to see him stick with her.”
Lucia Valentina is currently available at 2015 Apollo Stakes odds of $6 and is locked in a battle for favouritism with Godolphin import Contributer ($6) with Ladbrokes Australia.