Lucia on track for another assault

NEWCASTLE trainer Kris Lees went to Randwick on Saturday knowing it might be his second to last chance at another group 1 win with his star mare Lucia Valentina.

WINNER: Kris Lees, left, and jockey Damien Oliver, right, with their prizes from the Queen Elizabeth Stakes victory on Saturday. Picture: Getty Images

Fresh from his best moment in racing, Leeswas thrilled with the news on Sunday thatLucia Valentina’s ownershad delayed breeding plans and would race the five-year-old for another season with the Cox Plate the target.

Lucia Valentina, with Damien Oliver aboard, produced an amazing run to win the $4 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000 metres) on Saturday.A distant last in the early stages, the two-time group 1 winner was then squeezed between runners and almost felled at the top of the straightbefore recovering to find space wider and a remarkablefinishing burst.She beat favourite The United States bymore than two lengths to take the $2.5 million first prize and push her earnings past$4.1 million.

Asked if it was his best moment in racing, Lees said: “I suppose it is.Those are probably things you can’t judge right at this moment. It’s something you reflect on later, but I would think it’s going to be pretty hard to top, the more I think about it.

“She sends you through a roller-coaster through the race.She’s slow away, she gets back anyway, but when she’s three lengths behind the second-last horse, I was just a little concerned.

“Coming to the 700, I thought she’s a real chance here the way she’s going. Then she clipped heels, they made it a bit tight and shenearly went down on her nose.But she recovered, picked herself up, then within 50 metresthe race is over.”

Owners planned to retire Lucia Valentina to stud after this preparation but Lees was “very pleased” with their decision to race on.

“We’ve had a discussion this morning and she’s going to race on for another season, which is terrific news,” he said Sunday.“She’ll spell and we’ll target the Cox Plate.

“She’s a valuable broodmare but she’s racing at the top level. There’s the big prizemoney but also the thrill for her owners, and it’s hard to put a price on that.”

Lees said Saturday’seffort was the best he had trained.

“It was for sure, and that was very rewarding,” he said.

“We took a little bit of an unorthodox path to get there, so it was pretty rewarding for her to win like that.”

He said the mare had come through the rough run without serious injury.

“She’s good.She’s got a little bit of skin off her shins where she’s obviously clipped heels with that other horse, and it shows probably how close she came to falling.”

SWEET VICTORY: Damien Oliver celebrates aboard Lucia Valentina on Saturday. Picture: bradleyphotos南京夜网419论坛