Lucia Valentina has been kept to a mile for the 2015 Epsom Handicap and trainer Kris Lees is confident that the talented mare will be at her best for the Group 1 event at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
Lucia Valentina generally produces the best performance of each racing campaign third-up and she took out the Group 1 Vinery Stud Stakes (2000m) and Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) last year at this stage of her racing preparation.
The Savabeel mare performed well without winning in both the Group 2 Tramway Stakes (1400m) at Royal Randwick on September 5 and the Group 1 George Main Stakes (1600m) at the same venue on September 19, but Lees told Racing Ahead that his star mare is going just as well as she was 12 months ago when she won the Turnbull Stakes.
“She has come back really well,” Lees said.
“Traditionally her third run is often her best run and she is a two-time winner at Group 1 level third time in.
“It is the first time that I have stayed at a mile for her third run, but we have put blinkers on her just for a change.
“I think she is going as well; although she didn’t win the Tramway I think that it was a similar type of run and the George Main was maybe a touch better.
“She is a mare that I don’t go in with a great level of confidence because of her racing style, but if she gets the right type of run and she gets clear running on straightening then they will know that she is there.
“She comes in well under the weight scale here and they have increased the prizemoney to $1 million.
“She is a mare that I don’t think it will make a great deal of difference staying at a mile.
“Traditionally the Epsom is a tough mile, whether it has that type of quality to make it a tough mile, I still think she will be quite effective.”
Lucia Valentina has generally been ridden as a backmarker during her racing career and she missed the start in the George Main Stakes.
Lees admits that jockey Zac Purton will be forced to settle Lucia Valentina in the second half of the field, but he is hopeful that the leading hoop will be able to five the five-year-old the chance to finish over the top of her rivals in the 2015 Epsom Handicap.
“She has been just a little slow away and we know that she is a backmarker,” Lees said.
“Blinkers on I expect her to get away clean and she is going to be in the second half of the field, but at least with a soft barrier it takes away the chance of being exposed early with the blinkers and wanting to be a little fierce.
“She will be in the second half and depending on how the track is racing, if Randwick is soft you certainly want to be getting away from the fence.
“Zac can work that out, but he is certainly a champion rider.”
Lucia Valentina is currently available at 2015 Epsom Handicap odds of $8 and she is on the second line of betting behind the dominant favourite Winx ($2.80).