Group 1-winning mare Lucia Valentina has returned to form in style at Flemington this afternoon; producing a strong turn of foot on the outside rail in the final straight to take out the 2015 Matriarch Stakes (2000m).
Lucia Valentina has been unable to find much of a competitive run of form this season and was charged with overcoming the wide and awkward barrier 16 in Matriarch Stakes this afternoon.
Jumping well, champion hoop Damien Oliver elected to settle the daughter of Savabeel off the pace of early leaders Long Face Grave, Imperial Lass and Pondarosa Miss; who flew the stalls and ensured reasonable tempo would be infected into the race from the outset.
Peeling the mare off the fence rounding onto the final straight, Oliver was wide and awkward and appeared well out of contention, but found the gun line over the final 300m; Lucia Valentina responding with a typically strong turn of foot to hit the line ahead of Managress.
Oliver has ridden three winners on 2015 Stakes Day and was thrilled to be part of Lucia Valentina’s return to winning form in the Matriarch Stakes.
“She’s been running well from what I can gauge, but coming back to a mares’ race I know she had a lot of weight but she had a bit of class on them,” Oliver said.
“I was a long way back from a wide gate but I had good horses up in front of me and they found a little bit on the turn and I thought I’m close enough to the outside fence to go for it.
“I thought it was probably superior ground out there so when you’re that close to it I thought I’ll bite the bullet and have a crack at the outside fence.
“Her class shone through today.”
Trainer Kris Lees was pleased with Lucia Valentina’s performance to win the 2015 Matriarch Stakes and revealed the team is considering a trip aboard with the mare to contest the 2015 Hong Kong Cup (2000m) at Sha Tin in December.
“She’s not a big mare and to be realistic she’s been out of the winner’s circle for more than a year, so we thought we needed to drop her back and hopefully get back a bit of confidence,” Lees said.
“She was really strong late. She didn’t have any favours because she had to come around with the big weight.
“She’s got a nomination in for Hong Kong. I don’t know where she sits as far as though goes, otherwise we’ll put her away and she’ll race on for the rest of the season in the autumn.”
Returning this time for sixth in the Group 2 Tramway Stakes (1400m) on September 5th, Lucia Valentina appeared to be building for a big season when fourth in the Group 1 George Main Stakes (1600m) a fortnight later but failed to figure in either of the Group 1 Epsom Handicap (1600m) and Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m).