Valedictorian Picks Up First Open Company Stakes Win

Jersey-Bred Valedictorian Picks Up First Open Company Stakes Win

By Bill Finley

    Maybe he was being pessimistic, maybe he was being realistic, but when Kelly Breen sent New Jersey-bred Valedictorian to Laurel for the Sept. 22 $150,000 All Along Stakes on the grass he was not at all confident.

    “When we went down there we were keeping our fingers crossed that she would hit board,” he said.

    He’s right about one thing: this was not an easy spot. The field of 11 included several horses capable of running Beyer figures in the 90's. On the turf, Valedictorian had never run better than an 80.

   But she picked a good day to run the race of her life and got a big boost from jockey J.D. Acosta, who rode a masterful race. There was virtually no early speed in the race and Valedictorian is more of a stalker type, but Acosta realized she had enough early gas to steal the race.  He cleared the field and slowed the fractions down to 23 4/5 and 48. She was 5 ½ lengths in front at the eighth-pole and began to tire, but by then it was too late. She had opened up enough daylight that she was able to hang on for a 1 1/2-length win.

   “For her to run as well as she did we were ecstatic,” Breen said. “From a Beyer standpoint, it was the race of her life. She ran an 86. Honestly, I didn’t see any signs that she was about to run a race like that. She always trains well, is always a good horse in the feed tub all over. I didn’t see anything different with her.”

   Valedictorian, who was bred by John Bowers Jr., has now won nine of 21 starts.  She had more success on the dirt earlier in her career but has now won three straight grass races, including the Jersey Girl Handicap for Jersey-breds.

   “Up until this summer her best race was on the dirt at Philadelphia Park,” Breen said.

   “Now that she’s running better on the turf, maybe it’s maturity. I don’t know.  What makes this horse fun is that she has nine wins from 21 starts. She just likes to win.”

   Breen isn’t sure what will be next for Valedictorian, but his plans include running her back in the claiming crown at Gulfstream.

    Even though Valedictorian, a daughter of Temple City, will turn 5 next year and is now a winner of an open stakes, her value as a broodmare may never be higher. But Breen said the plan is to have her have a full campaign next year.

    She is owned by Epic Racing, an interesting newcomer to the New Jersey racing scene. Epic Racing is the stable name for Harriet Sawyer, a New York City based artist. Sawyer originally had Valedictorian based in Florida with trainer Michelle Nihei, but realized it would make more sense to send her to a New Jersey-based trainer, and chose Breen.

    Sawyer is in the process of building her stable and went to this year’s Spring 2-Year-Old Sale at Ocala and bought a Kitten’s Joy colt for $100,000 and an Orb colt for $185,000. Named Epic Dreamer, the Orb colt ran Sept. 23 in a maiden special weight race at Belmont and was a sharp second in a race that went in 1:08.93. The horse is a Kentucky bred.

    “They ran extremely fast in Epic Dreamer’s race and we were pleased with way he ran and are hoping for good things from him,” Breen said.

   “It’s always nice to have new blood,” Breen added. “It’s also nice to have somebody where you start with a clean slate rather than someone who’s been with other trainers. I try to keep her as knowledgeable as possible. She came to sale with me, helped with the selection on horses and was very much part of picking them out. This horse by Orb really caught her eye. She was there to give final thumbs up. I’ve come to her at a sale and said I really like this horse and she says this one isn’t for me. She’s someone I’m trying to teach, but it is the owner’s money and she has final say. When the hammer fell we were lucky to get that horse.”