Lucia does Lees proud in Hong Kong feature

WORLD STAGE: A massive crowd watches the rich Sha Tin meeting on Sunday. Picture: Getty ImagesPROUD Newcastle trainer Kris Lees said Lucia Valentina could hold her head highafter finishing fifth against some of the world’s best gallopers in the Hong Kong Cup (2000 metres) at Sha Tin on Sunday.
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Jockey Damien Oliver took Lucia Valentina ona rails run from barrier five and thedaughter of Savabeel finishedstrongly to be beaten fiveand a quarter lengths by upsetwinnerA Shin Hikari.

Lucia Valentina’s owners collected just over $148,000 for fifth place in the race which has total prizemoney of just under $4.5 million.

Lees, who was making his first trip as a trainer to the rich Hong Kong meeting, told the Heraldhe was very proud of the five-year-old mare.

“She ran super,” Lees said.

“She was up against someof the best horses in the world and she just ran out of her skin.”

Lees said the effort made the venture well worth the cost and time involved and he was keen to take more shots at international racing.

“Everything was really well looked after over here but there are costs involved you have to weigh up, but she’s paid for the trip and then some,” he said.

“The owners are ecstatic with the effort and she‘s held her head high against some of the best in the world.

“It was a huge effort. You can’t beat winning but I’m just really proud of how she raced.

“I’d definitely like to come back.Once you get a taste of racing against some of the best in the world and see how some of the besttrainers train their horses, it’s been a real eye-opener for me.

“I’m just really pleased to have been a part of it.”

Lucia Valentina, a 40-1 shot on Sunday, broke a year-long drought on November 7 to win the group 2 Matriarch Stakes at Flemington and secure her invitation to the Hong Kong Cup.

Lees was confident of more success for Lucia Valentina over the Sydney autumn, when the group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick in April will be her likely target.

“She put the writing on the wall in Melbourne,” he said.

“Obviously it wasn’t against this class of horse but it really gother confidence back and she’s trained on well right up to today.

“Since we’ve been here, she’s showed all the signs that she does when she’s at the top of her game.

“She will havetwo weeks hereand two weeks more quarantine in Melbourne, then she’ll have a spell before most likely being aimed atthe Queen Elizabeth Stakes.”

The result took the two-time group 1 winner, a$60,000 buy,to just under $2 million in stakes earned.The other Australian runner in the Hong Kong Cup, Criterion, finished well back.

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