Trainer Kris Lees has confirmed that Lucia Valentina has been invited to contest the 2015 Hong Kong Cup at Sha Tin on December 13 and will make the trip to Hong in just over a week.
Lees revealed after Lucia Valentina took out the Group 2 Matriarch Stakes (2000m) at Flemington on November 7 that he was keen to send the mare to Hong Kong and he received the news that he had been waiting for from the Hong Kong Jockey Club yesterday afternoon.
Lucia Valentina will face one of the toughest tests of her racing career to date in the 2015 Hong Kong Cup, but Lees is confident that the daughter of Savabeel can be competitive and potentially record another placing at the highest level of racing.
“It’s a terrific opportunity to test the mare on the world stage,” Lees said.
“It is over her best distance, and I’m sure she will be competitive.
“Obviously, even a placing in a race such as this would boost her value as a broodmare when she retires.
“It’s a great honour to be invited to such a prestigious meeting, and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Lees has never previously trained a horse in Hong Kong, but he revealed that he had previously been involved with the leading racing jurisdiction when he worked for his legendary father Max Lees in the 1990s.
Lees took Potential Star to Hong Kong in 1996 for the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup (2200m) and he finished a gallant eighth behind Godolphin-trained Overbury, while Corporate James finished ninth behind Midnight Bet in the 1998 edition of the Group 2 Hong Kong International Cup (1800m).
Lucia Valentina recorded her maiden win at Group 1 level when she took out the Group 1 Vinery Stud Stakes (2000m) during the 2014 Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival and she went on to take out the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) later that year before she finished third in the Group 1 Caulfield Cup.
The five-year-old performed well without winning in races like the Group 2 Apollo Stakes (1400m) and Group 1 Ranvet Stakes (2000m) and she performed inconsistently during the 2015 Spring Racing Carnival, but she was able to return to winning form in the Matriarch Stakes.
Lucia Valentina is currently available at 2015 Hong Kong Cup odds of $17, while Criterion and Designs On Rome are locked in a battle for favouritism.