Like most Queen Elizabeth Stakes jockeys, Damien Oliver will head into Sydney’s richest race with renewed hope.
Oliver reunites with the Kris Lees-trained Lucia Valentina in Saturday’s $4 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick on Saturday.
He won the Matriarch Stakes on the mare last spring before partnering her to finish fifth in the Hong Kong International Cup in December.
With connections of Winx opting not to back the six-time Group One winner up after her Doncaster Mile win on Saturday, Oliver says the weight-for-age showpiece of The Championships is now as wide open as it gets.
“A lot of people like to see Winx, but a lot of jockeys and trainers are probably sick of seeing her backside,” Oliver said.
“It opens the race right up. Lucia Valentina’s got great wet track form, she’s been really set for the race coming into it second-up and she goes in with a good chance.”
Lucia Valentina is on the fourth line of betting at $7 with Ranvet Stakes winner The United States favourite at $4.20 ahead of Preferment ($5) and last year’s winner Criterion ($6).
Five-year-old Lucia Valentina won the 2014 Vinery Stud Stakes and Turnbull Stakes over 2000m at Group One level and also won the Matriarch Stakes at that distance at Group Two level against her own sex last spring.
After running well under a big weight first-up in the Coolmore Classic (1500m) to finish fourth, Lees decided to go into the Queen Elizabeth with four weeks between runs as he believes the mare performs well when she is on the fresh side.
Oliver said he was taken by Lucia Valentina’s Hong Kong run.
“It was a great run to finish fifth and she beat home some high-class horses,” Oliver said.
“I thought she would have won a lot of Group One races on that run that day in Hong Kong.
“And that was on a firm track, so if she can bring that sort of form on a soft track she’s going to be right there.”
Lucia Valentina is part of a strong book of Group One rides for Oliver on Saturday.
Oliver’s ATC Australian Oaks ride Jameka is favourite while his Queen Of The Turf Stakes mount Azkadellia also holds the call at the top of the market.
Article from JustHorseRacing.com.au