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Light build-up suits fresh Lucia Valentina

As Lucia Valentina gets older her trainer Kris Lees believes he has found a new winning formula.

It won the mare a Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick in the autumn and it could give her a Cox Plate this spring.

An important stepping stone for Lucia Valentina’s Cox Plate bid takes place at Caulfield on Saturday when she contests the Underwood Stakes.

Lucia Valentina won the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at her second run from a break following a trip to Hong Kong, with four weeks between runs.

The Cox Plate is to be Lucia Valentina’s third start this campaign and again with a minimum of four weeks between runs.

Mal Ollerton, the travelling foreman for the Newcastle-based Lees, said the change had helped the mare.

“She’ll race here on Saturday and then it will be a month into the Cox Plate,” Ollerton said.

“It’s a similar sort of thing they did into the Queen Elizabeth and that seemed to work out well for us.

“She’s going as well as she’s ever gone.”

Lucia Valentina arrived at Caulfield on Sunday and had an important track gallop on Tuesday which Ollerton described as solid work.

But he said Saturday’s run would top her off for her main assignment, the Cox Plate, in which she will be pitted against champion mare Winx.

“She’s a lot bigger than she has been in previous years. She’s filled out now,” Ollerton said.

Lucia Valentina is on her third visit to Melbourne, having finished third in the 2014 Caulfield Cup and winning the Matriarch Stakes at Flemington last year.

Ollerton said the mare had settled in nicely and importantly was showing the same traits she showed at home.

“She get’s a bit sour and cranky, so nothing’s changed there,” Ollerton said.

“That’s all positive signs with her so if she was quiet you would be a little bit worried about her.”

Lucia Valentina has been inoculated for a possible return to Hong Kong in December after finishing fifth in the Hong Kong Cup last year.

“She’s had all the needles and that to go,” he said.

“If everything goes well down here she’ll probably head back over again.”

Lucia Valentina is the $4 second favourite in the Underwood behind the $2.30 top elect Black Heart Bart who is chasing his second Group One win of the season.

Our Ivanhowe has been scratched from Saturday’s race after treatment for a cut he received at the beach on Wednesday.

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