Former Cambridge filly new ATC Oaks favourite

The strength of Lucia Valentina’s win in yesterday’s Gr. 1 Vinery Stud Stakes at Rosehill came as no surprise to her former Cambridge trainer, Stephen Marsh.

Marsh prepared Lucia Valentina for her first five starts, which resulted in two wins and a second, and he always had a high opinion of the daughter of Savabeel, who is owned by Wellingtonian Lib Petagna.

Lucia Valentina won on debut over 1200 metres at Tauranga last October and two starts later she defeated subsequent Gr. 1 TV3 NZ Derby third placegetter Glorious Lad in the Gr. 3 Ekraar Wellington Stakes (1600m) at Otaki.

Lucia Valentina then fell in the Gr. 2 Lindauer Great Northern Guineas, but bounced back to finish a game second to Rising Romance in the Gr. 2 NZ Bloodstock Royal Stakes (2000m), her first test beyond 1600 metres and her farewell performance from Marsh’s stable.

Marsh always believed Lucia Valentina would be best-suited at 2000 metres and was capable of Group One success.

Though he wasn’t able to realise his goal to get a Group One win with her in New Zealand, Marsh had his judgment proved spot on yesterday as the filly ploughed through heavy ground to win the 2000-metre Group One fillies’ event.

Lucia Valentina is now prepared at Broadmeadow by Kris Lees and that was always the plan after her early education in New Zealand.

She had had three starts for Lees for a first-up third in the Gr. 2 Surround Stakes (1400m) at Warwick Farm then a 12th in the Gr. 1 Coolmore Classic (1500m) before appreciating the step up to 2000 yesterday.

The Vinery Stud Stakes didn’t go to the original plan with Lucia Valentina. Rider Hugh Bowman had been instructed to find a midfield position but after the filly missed the start and was forced onto the worst part of the track, he had to revert to Plan B and ride her for luck.

Bowman settled Lucia Valentina second-last in the 16-horse field and with most jockeys taking a wide course in the wet conditions, Bowman had no option but to stick to the inner in the hope of making ground.

 Lucia Valentina knuckled down to her work and wore down the leader Solicit to win by a length while there was a gap of five lengths to third-placegetter Forever Loved.

“I was a little concerned in the run when she was back last,” said Lees. “Hugh had no other option than to go into the worse going up the fence and she was strong at the finish, like we expected her to be.

“She’s a genuine stayer and she’ll improve again off that.”

Lucia Valentina is the new Gr. 1 ATC Oaks favourite at $2.80 and Bowman is quietly confident she can justify that favouritism.

“She had 12 to 14 lengths to make up,” he said. “She was entitled to hit the wall, but was strong through the line.”

Lucia Valentina’s win was a change of luck for Petagna, who was also represented on the Rosehill card by the Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman-trained Atlante in the Gr. 2 Nathan Berry Tulloch Stakes (2000m).

Winner of the Gr. 1 Sothys NZ 2000 Guineas at Riccarton last November, Atlante finished 12th, 11 and three-quarter lengths from the winner, Gallatin, when failing to handle the heavy track.