The road towards a maiden Cox Plate continues on Saturday for Kris Lees-trained Lucia Valentina with jockey Damian Oliver back on board the six-year-old mare.
The group 1 Underwood Stakes (1800 metres) at Caulfield will be the first time they have reunited since a $2.4 million group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) victory at Randwick in April.
It will be their third race together, which also yielded success in the group 2 Matriach (2000m) at Flemington in November, and Lees said he likes it that way.
“They are a good partnership,” Lees said. “She’s only had the one run since [the Queen Elizabeth], but it’s good to have him back on.”
Broadmeadow-based Lees said Lucia Valentina’s main event this spring would be at Moonee Valley on October 22, but didn’t put a second up win past her.
“This race looks to suit her with a bit of tempo there, but I’m mindful she’s got a bit of improvement in her because the aim has been the Cox Plate all along,” Lees said.
“It’s just a nice second up, a stepping stone to where she’s going. She’ll be strong late but it’s whether she can pick them up at the end.”
Lucia Valentina ($4.20) has been instilled as second favourtie behind Black Heart Bart ($2.50) with reigning Melbourne Cup champion Prince of Penzance ($34) rated an outside chance over the shorter distance.
Lees said a crack at the $2million group 1 Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) at Flemington was potentially on the cards in early November.
“At this stage she will have the Mackinnon Stakes after that [Cox Plate], but we’ll just run it race by race,” Lees said.
Elsewhere, Lees has three-year-old filly Rosa Carolina in the listed TAB Reginald Allen Quality (1400m) at Rosehill on Saturday.
Meanwhile, dates for next year’s country and provincial championship races have been released with Scone (March 5), wildcard Muswellbrook (March 26) and Newcastle (March 29) part of the program before finals at Randwick on the opening two Saturday afternoons in April.