Lucia Valentina is set to return to the races in the 2015 Tramway Handicap and trainer Kris Lees is confident that racegoers will see a much stronger mare in the Group 2 event at Royal Randwick on September 5.
Lucia Valentina has not been seen at the races since she finished a credible sixth in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) at Royal Randwick on April 11 and she was given a very soft trial at Gosford on August 3, but remains on track to defend her title in the Tramway Handicap.
Lees told Racing Ahead that he is yet to decide on the exact path that Lucia Valentina will follow during the 2015 Spring Racing Carnival, but the Savabeel mare is likely to return to Group 1 level in the George Main Stakes (1600m) at Royal Randwick on September 19 before she heads to Melbourne for the Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley on October 24.
“She has had one barrier trial and she will trial again on Monday here at Newcastle,” Lees said.
“She will start off on a similar path and race in the Tramway, which she won last year, but after that we haven’t tied down which way we will go with her.
“She may go to the George Main or there are a couple of other options for her.
“More than likely we will head on a path to the Cox Plate and if she is up to that level that is the way we will go.
“She didn’t quite come up as well in the autumn, but it was her first time around at weight-for-age level and she is a little more seasoned and I think that is a nice race to target for her.”
Lucia Valentina was unable to record a race win during the 2015 Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival, but Lees said that she was far from disgraced in races like the Group 1 Ranvet Stakes (2000m) and he revealed that the five-year-old returned from her stint in the spelling paddock as a much stronger horse.
“She has certainly strengthened quite a lot,” Lees said.
“She is probably 15 or 20 kilos heavier and she is very rough in the coat, which she was last time as well.
“She will start to clean up now with the warmer weather and I am pretty happy with where she is at, at the moment.”
Lucia Valentina is currently available at 2015 Cox Plate odds of $26 with Ladbrokes, while Arod ($10) and Contributer ($10) remain locked in a battle for favouritism with Criterion ($13), Highland Reel ($13), Hartnell ($25) and Pornichet ($15).