Kris Lees thought Lucia Valentina would be taking on Australia’s star of the turf earlier in the week but his mare became the headline act in Saturday’s Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) at Randwick.
Lucia Valentina charged home to win the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick. Photo: Steve Hart
Lees admitted he thought Lucia Valentina would have had a task beating Cox Plate and Doncaster Mile winner Winx in the $4 million event, which prompted him to adopt a different approach to preparing the New Zealand-owned galloper for the Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
However, trainer Chris Waller withdrew the super mare on Tuesday, which opened the Queen Elizabeth Stakes market in which Lucia Valentina started as an $8 chance behind the $4.60 favourite The United States.
Lucia Valentina worked home well when fourth in the Group I Coolmore Stakes (1500m) at Rosehill on March 12 but Lees was happy to take the daughter of Savabeel into the Queen Elizabeth Stakes second-up.
“I just thought I had to do something a bit different, thinking I would be taking on Winx,” Lees said. “She’s got a terrific turn of foot, she’s so effective at 2000m and she loves a gap between runs, I don’t know why it took me so long to do it.
“I just wanted to get her here with fresh legs, she didn’t have a spell, she just had a little bit of time off so she got here in really good order. I had no doubt about her being effective second up.”
Lees’s plan looked in trouble when Lucia Valentina clipped heels and dipped on the home turn but recovered to produce a brilliant turn of foot for jockey Damien Oliver in the last 300m to score a dominant win.
“Coming to the turn I had a lot of horse and not much room to go anywhere. I went up in between a couple as we straightened and I got shut out of that,” Oliver said.
“At the furlong it was nearly all over. I went from the outhouse to the penthouse in about 200m from the 400m to the 200m.
“She picked herself up great though and went zoom.”
Lucia Valentina strode to a 2-¼ length win over The United States, who firmed from $5 into $4.60, while Happy Clapper ($8) played up before the race but finished gamely for third.