Marsh’s magical day at Otaki

Cambridge trainer Stephen Marsh celebrated a wonderful day at Otaki today when picking up the two major prizes and the promise of more to come as the season unfolds.

Two races after watching Barbaric win the Listed Chainey’s Panasonic Levin Stakes in breath-taking fashion, stablemate Lucia Valentina unleashed a similar late charge to land the money in the day’s main event, the Gr. 3 $70,000 [email protected] Park Wellington 3YO Stakes.

Lucia Valentina’s win added to a great start to the season for Wellington owner Lib Petagna and his racing manager Bruce Perry.

Earlier this month the pair were celebrating the Gr. 1 Sothys NZ 2000 Guineas win of the Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman-trained Atlante at Riccarton and today they were toasting the impressive win of Lucia Valentina.

Petagna holds the majority shareholding in Atlante and is the outright owner of Lucia Valentina, who was bought by Perry on Petagna’s behalf for $60,000 from the Premier Session of the National Yearling Sales at Karaka last year.

The Savabeel filly had impressed Marsh from the outset, winning on debut at Tauranga before an unlucky sixth at Te Rapa. And today she capped off a wonderful day for Marsh, who also picked up the other feature on the Otaki card, the Listed Chainey’s Panasonic Levin Stakes, with Barbaric.

“She’s a beautiful filly and I just hope Lib and Bruce keep her here for the Oaks,” said Marsh. “She may head to Australia, but I really hope I can get a Group One for them here.”

Despite having just three starts, Lucia Valentina has looked an exciting staying prospect and she certainly showed that today when she charged home to take the race, then carried on well into the back straight before rider Leith Innes could pull her up.

“She’s such a nice, relaxed filly you won’t see the best of her until she gets 2000 metres,” said Innes. “She really let down well and I was really confident (of winning) when she got clear. It’s just a shame it’s not a Group One race.”

Lucia Valentina settled towards the rear as Dezignator made the pace from Glorious Lad with Lucky Feather trailing and Gobi Ranger and Salamander (three wide) following.

Halfway down the home straight Lucky Feather, who had taken over on straightening, was holding on gamely from Glorious Lad, but it was soon obvious Lucia Valentina was unleashing an irresistible finish down the outside.

Lucia Valentina swallowed the ground over the last 100 metres to win by a long neck from the Shaune Ritchie-trained Glorious Lad, giving Cambridge the Group Three quinella.

Marsh tried to play down his excitement after the race. “She’s obviously a very talented filly and really she should be unbeaten,” he said.

“We went out with a plan to ride her a bit cooler and just get her off the fence. Leith rode her brilliantly. He got her out and presented her in the middle of the track.

“We felt if presented out with a bit of room to move she could pick them up. In the end she picked them up really well.”

Marsh is keen to see Lucia Valentina when she gets to a middle-distance.

“She’s gone 1200, 1400 and now a mile and when she gets to 2000 she should find it easier.”