SPOT ON: Lucia Valentina, with Cox Plate jockey Kerrin McEvoy aboard, works on the Moonee Valley track on Thursday. Picture: Getty ImagesMAL Ollertonwon’t be complaining if forecast heavy rain hits Moonee Valley on Fridayahead of Lucia Valentina’s clashwith stars Winx and Hartnell in the $3 million Cox Plate (2040 metres).
In fact, thetravelling foreman for premier Newcastle trainer Kris Lees would love rain every day until the Australasianweight-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 and Mal Ollerton at Caulfield before the 2014 Caulfield Cup. Picture: Getty Images
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 Winxand 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 lookat 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’tgoing 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)
1HAPPY TRAILS (Paul Beshara) 1059kg
2BLACK HEART BARTDarren Weir659kg
5HAPPY CLAPPERPatrick Webster459kg
7AWESOME ROCKLeon & Troy Corstens 559kg
LUCIA VALENTINAKris Lees957kg
10YANKEE ROSEDavid Vandyke147.5kg