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Lucia in similar form to autumn: Lees

Kris Lees is happy for Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner Lucia Valentina to fly under the radar as he prepares the multiple Group One winner for the Cox Plate.

The trainer is convinced the winner of Sydney’s richest race is going just as well heading into Saturday’s $3 million feature at Moonee Valley.

Lucia Valentina is at $21 for the Cox Plate (2040m) in which defending champion Winx is at $1.85 and in-form Hartnell is the only other horse under double figures at $3.20.

Lees is aware of the task ahead against two in-form horses and a host of other topliners but also believes Lucia Valentina is somewhat forgotten in Cox Plate discussions.

“A little bit. Which is fine,” Lees said.

“I think in other years she’d be a lot tighter in the market. But I think it’s just a reflection on how these other two are going. And it’s going to be a wonderful race.”

After a Hong Kong mission last December, Lees took Lucia Valentina into the $4 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes in Sydney in April second-up with a month between runs.

With more time to prepare her for her spring target he has planned for Lucia Valentina to be third-up on Saturday but has deliberately kept a month between races.

“She excelled in the autumn with a nice gap between runs,” he said.

“We feel we’ve got her here in a similar vein. It’s probably a stronger race than the Queen Elizabeth, but she’s getting here in really good order and I’m looking forward to Saturday.”

Lees took Lucia Valentina to Sandown rather than Moonee Valley for a gallop on Tuesday.

Lucia Valentina got her first look around Moonee Valley last Thursday when she worked in company with Happy Trails.

“Kerrin McEvoy was of the opinion she didn’t need to come back,” Lees said.

“I thought on her work on Tuesday morning, she’s going pretty similar to how she was going into the Queen Elizabeth.”

There is some rain forecast in Melbourne on Friday but Lees would love significant downpours as Lucia Valentina excels in the wet.

“I hope they nearly call them off,” Lees said.

“She’ll excel on this track, regardless, because they can get their toe into it.”

Lees is content with barrier nine in the field of 10 as Lucia Valentina is a get-back runner armed with a powerful finishing sprint.

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