04/01/2006 1:00AM

Klesaris high on Lucy Valentine


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Not many Illinois-breds bring $290,000 at auction, but that's what it took to buy Lucy Valentine last spring at the Ocala Breeders' sales. An eye-catching pre-sale breeze caught the attention of trainer Steve Klesaris, and it was he and the Puglisi Stables who ended up writing a big check for her.

In the year that has transpired, Klesaris said he still likes his investment. With three races as a 2-year-old, including a season-ending maiden victory on Oct. 29 at Delaware Park, Lucy Valentine has progressed reasonably well, according to Klesaris, and the best may be yet to come.

"We're really looking forward to getting her back to the races," said Klesaris.

As one of seven 3-year-old fillies in the Monday feature at Gulfstream Park - a first-level, $33,000 allowance at six furlongs - Lucy Valentine has every right to get her new year started the right way. "She's trained very forwardly for this comeback race," said Klesaris, referring to a steady pattern of recent workouts.

Klesaris was enamored of Lucy Valentine from the start. "The day she breezed at Ocala, there was a strong headwind, and nothing could break 11 [seconds]" when breezing an eighth-mile, he said. "Then this filly goes in 10-and-1, and I'm like, 'Whoa,' "

Lucy Valentine started her career with two third-place finishes, including a half-length defeat to Celestial Legend in her debut. She then scored a front-running, 2 3/4-length win in October, a start in which Klesaris said "she did everything correctly."

Klesaris has had a quiet Gulfstream meet - he was 2 for 26 coming into the Saturday card - but his winter has not lacked a high point: Miraculous Miss registered one of the stable's victories when she won the Grade 2 Forward Gal last month.

Lucy Valentine, with Jeremy Rose to ride, will start from post 6 in the eighth of nine Monday races. Among her chief opposition is Hand Me Down, whose maiden victory two starts back resulted in a race-high 87 Beyer Speed Figure; Song of Music, whose two career starts have been solid; and Image of Mother, who enters off a March 10 victory in $60,000 claiming company.

The balance of the field is Travel Plans, Imelda Oh, and Frolicing.

First post is 12:50 p.m. Eastern.