Classy kiwi import Lucia Valentina has stamped her claims a serious Caulfield Cup contender at Flemington this afternoon, displaying a superior turn of foot in the final straight to win the featured Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m).
Jumping from the gates only fairly, the Savabeel mare was forced to settle off the pace of early leaders Entirely Platinum, Let’s Make Adeal and Brambles who set a noticeably quick tempo in the Turnbull Stakes’ early stages.
Finding the final straight with plenty to do, Lucia Valentina was worked through the field by renowned jockey Kerrin McEvoy; finding the lead pack with just 100m left to run and poking clear to finish a nose ahead of Lidari; Brambles maintaining a strong sprint to claim third.
McEvoy delivered a perfectly timed ride aboard Lucia Valentina for victory in the 2014 Turnbull Stakes and is confident she will be the one to beat come October 18th’s featured Caulfield Cup (2400m).
“Very smart three-year-old obviously and she’s starting to show that at four which is really exciting for Kris and the team,” McEvoy said following the race.
“I wanted to get her out and be a bit closer today which we were able to do; there was a nice-enough tempo the whole way and had to sort of dart back in and ride for a bit of luck, but she’s got a nice turn of foot and she was able to show that today.
“She had a little hiccup during the week that Kris was happy enough wasn’t going to affect her today and he’s been proven right.
“She hasn’t won on a good track; admittedly today’s track is riding with a little bit of give in it so I was happy enough when I felt that … She’s a filly that everyone’s labelled as a wet-tracker but I think she just handles it better than some.
“If it’s going to be damp on Caulfield Cup day she’s going to be very hard to beat.”
Having suffered a minor foot injury in the lead-up to the Turnbull Stakes, trainer Kris Lees was thrilled his decision to run Lucia Valentina paid dividends this afternoon, and is confident she is on track for success in the Caulfield Cup.
“I rushed down on Wednesday night – she had a bit of heat in her foot and therefore we didn’t work her Thursday morning, I was very public about that but it might have been a blessing, she raced very well today,” Lees said immediately after the Turnbull Stakes.
“A win is a bonus – you don’t want any setbacks in Group 1 races so she’d only had two relatively soft runs going into the race so I would have liked to have stuck just a little bit more work into her but that said there’s not a lot of her, she’s coming up well and she’s on track.”