By Ray Hickson
When talented mare Luvaluva takes her place in the $1 million The Gong (1600m) on Saturday it will be 595 days and 15 starts since her last win.
That’s a stat trainer John Sargent is well aware of but he says the five-year-old is on track to end that drought given she hasn’t had a better build up or set up for a race.
Sargent said although The Gong is effectively Plan B for the spring, Luvaluva had her spring campaign delayed a month due to a hock injury, since he decided to focus on the new Kembla Grange race it’s been smooth sailing.
So with two eye-catching runs from a spell, the step up to 1600m and a favourable draw Sargent says it’s now over to Luvaluva and Tim Clark to get the job done.
“It’s up to her now on Saturday to front up, she’s a lot stronger this campaign than she’s ever been,’’ he said.
“She has the perfect draw so there’ll be no excuses. She’s bang on for Saturday and if it is a truly run race it should be right up her alley.’’
Interestingly, Luvaluva’s last win was the 2018 Group 3 Adrian Knox Stakes which was held on the same program as El Dorado Dreaming’s last success in the Group 1 Sires’ Produce and the duo were sharing favouritism on Wednesday with TAB at $5.50.
Luvaluva was in the early stages of her spring preparation when she became cast in her box and scraped her back hock, that required antibiotics and a month off.
Sargent said given her pleasing two runs back from a spell it might be a blessing in disguise and she is proven at the Kembla Grange 1600m having won the Group 3 Classic there the start before her Adrian Knox win.
The mare resumed with a closing second behind Greyworm over 1400m at Randwick on October 26 then stayed at the same trip for an eye-catching fifth in the Group 2 Hot Danish Stakes at Rosehill two weeks later.
Punter’s Intelligence sectional data shows she ran 33.69 for her last 600m there and posted the equal fastest last 200m of 11.14.
“They’ve been good runs, the second one was dictated by the draw and she had to go back,’’ Sargent said.
“Now we can at least be midfield and with a decent sized field there should be a good tempo. She doesn’t need to be at the back and we can dictate to ourselves.
“They get going at Kembla about the 600m and open the field up, at Rosehill they come around the turn sharply and get away from you.
Luvaluva runs fifth in the Hot Danish Stakes at Rosehill on November 9
“I’d like to see her within striking range, about sixth and coming into it at the 600m, she has a big finish and it can be late. As long as the pressure goes on she will keep finding the line.’’
Jockey Tim Clark was at Randwick on Tuesday morning to ride Luvaluva in her major work prior to The Gong and in the blinkers for the first time since she raced in them when third in the Group 1 NZ Breeders’ Stakes in April.
“She went straight through the line with the blinkers on,’’ he said.
“It gave Tim another feel and he couldn’t have been happier with her, she went over 1200m and kept quickening and sprinted up the last 200m.’’
Sargent said all going well Luvaluva will contest the Group 2 Villiers Stakes (1600m) at Randwick on December 14, seeking a Doncaster Mile exemption, before a spell.