Newcastle trainer Kris Lees will give Melbourne its first taste of the Winx and Hartnell form this spring when Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner Lucia Valentina runs in Saturday's Underwood Stakes at Caulfield.
The meeting marks the start of the arrival of the top-end Sydney horses, with Golden Rose winner Astern and Divine Prophet to run in the Guineas Prelude, while Peter and Paul Snowden will give Tycoon Tara a group 1 shot in the Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes, where Counterattack will represent the Chris Waller yard.
Lucia Valentina takes the best form in the country to the Underwood after winning the Queen Elizabeth Stakes in the autumn, with her only run since being a fourth behind Winx in the Warwick Stakes last month.
"She finished next to Hartnell that day and it looks like the right form," Lees said. "This race was always the plan and then third-up into the Cox Plate, she likes to be kept fresh and have her runs spaced as she has got older.
"When you look at what Hartnell and then Winx did on Saturday, I'm happy we made this choice. They are going super and gives you confidence from that first-up run."
Lucia Valentina has arrived at Caulfield and will gallop on the course proper there on Tuesday morning but Lees has been working her the Melbourne way since her first-up run.
"She has been going well on her Melbourne leg at home and continues to improve," he said.
"She is looking for the 1800 metres and you have to remember she won the Queen Elizabeth Stakes last preparation second-up, so I have no worries about her fitness or ability to run the trip.
"We designed the program to get the Cox Plate third-up, where she has won group 1s in past over 2000m [The Turnbull Stakes and Vinery Stakes]."
Damien Oliver will be back in the saddle on Saturday after winning the Queen Elizabeth Stakes on Lucia Valentina. Lees may also send promising filly Rosa Carolina, which is owned in the same interests as Lucia Valentina, to Melbourne.
"We have booked Kerrin McEvoy for the Thousand Guineas Prelude and Blake Shinn in Sydney for the Reginald Allen [Stakes]. She will work at home [in Newcastle] on Tuesday and then we will look at the nomins and decide which is the better option for her," Lees said.
Another member of the Lees which may head south is Heritage Stakes winner Guard Of Honour but only after another run in Sydney.
"He has pulled up well from his win on Saturday, we will go to the Roman Consul Stakes next then think about the Coolmore [Stud Stakes]. He is a colt and the group 1 is appealing," Lees said.