A back in form Lucia Valentina is heading to Hong Kong a last start winner and champion jockey Damien Oliver is confident she will be able to mix it with the best middle distance gallopers in the world in the Group 1 HK$25m Longines Hong Kong Cup (2000m) at Sha Tin on December 13.
Lucia Valentina broke a thirteen month losing drought when Oliver brought her down the outside fence to win the Group 2 $300,000 Presto Matriarch Stakes (2000m) at Flemington on the final day of the four day Melbourne Cup Carnival.
“It’s a good opportunity to get over there for a really big race, and she is coming off a nice last start win and it’s exciting,” Oliver told racing.com.
“Looking forward to it.”
“I think she’d been running well, it was a good run in the Caulfield Cup when she drew wide and she made good ground in that race and I think she appreciated the little bit softer track at Flemington.”
Lucia Valentina found the drop back to Group 2 mares company more to her liking in the Matriarch Stakes and the softer track also paid way for her winning performance, but Oliver said that the conditions in Hong Kong might not be the same as Flemington.
“I’m not sure we’re going to get that in Hong Kong but she’s going there in good form, so you can’t ask for more,” Oliver said.
Oliver has had success in the past on Hong Kong’s biggest international race day with wins on the mighty Queensland sprinter Falvelon in the Hong Kong Sprint in 2000 and 2001 when it was run at Group 2 level over 1000m, but now is one of the four Group 1 races on the day.
The premiership winning jockey also rode the winner of the 1994 Hong Kong Cup on State Taj with his last visit to Hong Kong International Raceday being aboard Linton who could only beat one runner home when thirteen in the 2013 Group 1 HK$20m Longines Hong Kong Mile (1600m).
“It’s always a great meeting to be at,” Oliver said.
“Some of the best horses and jockeys from all around the world (are there), it’s an awesome meeting, and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Cox Plate and Melbourne Cup placegetter Criterion is also heading to Hong Kong for the Cup and the David Hayes and Tom Dabernig trained five year old has been posted as the $4.20 favourite with Ladbrokes.com.au.
The local gallopers are always hard to beat and Designs On Rome at $4.50, Military Attack at $7 and Beauty Only at $8.50 are all prominent in the betting ahead of the smart Japanese galloper Staphanos at $9.
French trained Gailo Chop is marked at $11 alongside of Lucia Valentina and heads to Hong Kong on the back of an all the way win in the Group 1 $1m Longines Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) at Flemington on October 31.
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