MAL Ollerton won’t be complaining if forecast heavy rain hits Moonee Valley on Friday ahead of Lucia Valentina’s clash with stars Winx and Hartnell in the $3 million Cox Plate (2040 metres).
In fact, the travelling foreman for premier Newcastle trainer Kris Lees would love rain every day until the Australasian weight-for-age championship.
“We had rain here this morning and a bit yesterday,” Ollerton said after working Lucia Valentina at Sandown on Tuesday morning.
“There’s more forecast, and we’d love it to rain everyday up until Saturday. More the better for us.”
Lucia Valentina’s love of rain-affected ground was highlighted in her Queen Elizabeth Stakes victory in April at Randwick, where she stormed home on a soft track to win the $2.5 million cheque by 2.3 lengths.
Ollerton, though, said while the six-year-old mare “really appreciates” softer going, $1.90 favourite Winx and Hartnell ($3) also get through the conditions.
“A lot of people have got her pegged as a wet tracker, but she’s performed well on dry tracks too,” he said of Lucia Valentina. “She’s just one of those horses that when it is wet, it probably brings the others back to her a bit further because she gets through it.”
Jockey Kerrin McEvoy gave Lucia Valentina her first look at Moonee Valley in track work last Thursday but the Lees camp opted to keep the three-time group 1 winner away from Tuesday’s ‘Breakfast With The Best’ event at the track. Ollerton said the mare appreciated the outstanding Moonee Valley surface last week, but they were keen for a “quieter” hit-out at Sandown on Tuesday.
“She just worked on her own this morning,” he said.
“She just did a bit of pace work and quickened up the last couple of furlongs, just on the bridle. She had a hard hit-out last week so she’s didn’t need much.”
Lucia Valentina was a $21 chance with TAB Fixed Odds after drawing barrier nine in the 10-horse field on Tuesday. Ollerton, though, said the absence of an obvious pacesetter was a bigger concern than the draw.
“She’ll go back anyway and, to be honest, it probably wasn’t going to matter what she came out of,” he said.
“In saying that, there doesn’t look to be a lot of speed, but it is what it is. She’ll get back and you just hope that one jumps out and rolls along and strings them out a little bit.”
He said Lucia Valentina was “probably spot on now”, but there were no illusions about the task ahead.
“Everyone is saying it’s a two-horse race, and it could be, but anything can happen,” he said. “The thing is, when they are that level, those are the sort of horses you’ve got to come up against. Pretty much her whole career she’s been racing against the best, so you can’t really run and hide from them. You got to take them on at some stage.”
The Cox Plate Field is: (Number, horse, trainer, barrier, weight)
1 HAPPY TRAILS (Paul Beshara) 10 59kg
2 BLACK HEART BART Darren Weir 6 59kg
3 HARTNELL John O'Shea 7 59kg
4 HAURAKI John O'Shea 8 59kg
5 HAPPY CLAPPER Patrick Webster 4 59kg
6 VADAMOS Andre Fabre 2 59kg
7 AWESOME ROCK Leon & Troy Corstens 5 59kg
8 WINX Chris Waller 3 57kg 9
LUCIA VALENTINA Kris Lees 9 57kg
10 YANKEE ROSE David Vandyke 1 47.5kg