Lucia Valentina returned to racing with an outstanding victory in the Group 2 Tramway Stakes at Royal Randwick on September 6, but trainer Kris Lees admits that he is worried about the poor second-up record of the Savabeel mare heading into the 2014 George Main Stakes this weekend.
Lucia Valentina made her racing debut with a win at Tauranga in October last year, but finished a disappointing sixth at Te Rapa and she produced that pattern when she arrived in Australia; finishing third in the Group 2 Surround Stakes (1400m) at Warwick Farm first-up before failing to fire in the Group 1 Coolmore Classic (1500m) at Rosehill Gardens on March 22.
Lees told Sky Racing HQ that he has not given Lucia Valentina much work since her sensational first-up victory and admits that the four-year-old faces a tough challenge stepping up to weight-for-age level in the Group 1 George Main Stakes (1600) this weekend.
“She is ticking over nice,” Lees said.
“She is coming off a first-up run on heavy ground and we haven’t done a lot with her.
“She has only had two gallops since that run and I have been a little bit kind to her.
“I am just a little mindful that second-up last preparation was probably the worst of her four runs and we are just keeping that at the back of our minds.
“It has been well documented that there is not a lot of her and she has a long way to go.
“This is the big test for her going to weight-for-age against better company again.
“She has got to keep producing; she gets firmer ground, lack of speed and a possible lack of speed on paper, so there are a few negatives this week.”
Lucia Valentina has produced the two biggest wins of her career to date, the Group 1 Vinery Stud Stakes (2000m) and Tramway Stakes, on rain affected surfaces, but Lees said that he believes that the talented mare is capable of reproducing that sort of form on firmer tracks during her 2014 Spring Racing Carnival campaign.
“She is proven to be a very good on heavy ground, but her New Zealand racing was all on firmer ground,” Lees said.
“They had a dry summer and when she first came over they were questioning whether she could handle wet ground, so I have no qualms about going to firmer ground.”
Lucia Valentina is currently favourite in the 2014 George Main Stakes betting market with Ladbrokes Australia and she is available at George Main Stakes odds of $4.80.