A Different Viewpoint
A DIFFERENT VIEWPOINT
In a statement posted Friday on its internet web site, Team Valor International announced it was transferring all of its North American-based Thoroughbreds to trainer Graham Motion. Motion is stabled at the Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland. Team Valor is buying a 40-stall barn at the center, according to the announcement.
One of the colt's being moved is Pluck, recent winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Churchill Downs. Pluck has earned three victories from five starts, including a pair of stakes. The son of More Than Ready has banked more than $700,000 in his brief career.
The announcement that Pluck, and three other Team Valor horses formerly-trained by Todd Pletcher, were moving to a new barn begged a question. Was the change connected in any way to the disastrous performance by the Pletcher-trained Life At Ten in Friday's Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic? I contacted Team Valor founder and CEO Barry Irwin via email to find out.
Irwin responded quickly and clearly. "I have been working on this (move) for months. It has nothing to do with Life At Ten," he said.
A former competitive athlete, Irwin has been outspoken on a variety of issues connected with the sport. Among other things, he has taken a strong stand against improper use of drugs and other nostrums in Thoroughbred racing. Irwin doesn't just talk-the-talk, he walks-the-walk. A few years ago he fired a trainer for violating medication rules in the state where the trainer was stabled.
Knowing how Irwin feels about the drugs, I asked if the transfer of any of these horses, whether from Pletcher or any other trainer, had anything to do with these issues? Once again there was no equivocation.
"Nothing whatsoever. I am doing (the move) because I think I can keep European imports fitter and sounder at Fair Hill...my fillies have thrived away from the racetrack," said Irwin.
Although Irwin wouldn't comment about what action he might or might not have taken if he was owner of Life At Ten, he did speak to a couple of other issues which have emerged in the wake of this incident.
I asked him if he would comment about the conduct of some of the people involved with Life At Ten. He responded, saying, "I have nothing but good things to say about all of my current trainers, especially Todd Pletcher."
Irwin went on to add, "(Pletcher) is a thorough professional in every regard. He has been (unfairly) characterized as a cheater by people that are jealous or unable to understand how legal medication is administered or tested. (Todd) is a brilliant horseman, a great credit to our game, and the envy of every other trainer in North America."
When pressed about the actions of some others, Barry had a surprising response.
Irwin said, "I am more upset with how television handled the Breeders' Cup than anything that happened regarding Life At Ten. They tried to turn a sporting event into the (World Wrestling Federation)."
He added, "What in the hell was Jerry Bailey doing interfering with Calvin Borel (when Borel) was warming up Tell a Kelly for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Filly Race? (It was) completely unprofessional." Tell a Kelly was Borel's first mount after engaging in a fight with Javier Castellano earlier Friday afternoon subsequent to the Breeders' Cup Marathon.
Barry was far from done. He went on to say, "And what was that bull...all about where they made the jockeys bring horses up so that the talking heads could interview them? Their horses were forced to stand still, instead of keeping moving so they could cool out properly."
Did I mention Irwin can be outspoken?
Today's feature race at Aqueduct is the Grade 3 Long Island Handicap. Carded for one and one-half miles on turf, the Long Island is the final graded turf stake of 2010 in New York.
No one needs me to tell them Changing Skies will be the favorite and most likely winner this afternoon. The Bill Mott-trained filly comes off a tough-loss second in the Grade 1 Flower Bowl at Belmont. The latter event produced subsequent Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf winner Shared Account.
There are three entrants which deserve some consideration for pieces of the $150,000 purse.
Mekong Melody has the best chance to upset Changing Skies. She emerges from the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor Stakes at Woodbine, an event which annually attracts a good, international field. Seven of the Taylor starters last raced in Europe.
Mekong Melody broke sharply that day, but was shuffled back several lengths soon after the start. Jockey Patrick Husbands had to steady the mare when she became rank after that.
Husbands, who is not one of my favorite riders despite his Canadian success, wrestled the mare outside for clear running. When presented with this freedom, Mekong Melody flew up to press the pace outside frontrunner Akarlina. She remained in contention until getting into traffic in upper stretch.
Another contender is Daveron, ironically owned by Team Valor and trained by Graham Motion. This mare won at overnight stake at Belmont in October, her second start for Motion. She finished fourth, two and one-half lengths behind runner-up Changing Skies, in the June 19 New York Handicap.
A potential bomber for exotic players is Tarrip. She comes from what looks like a dismal sixth-place finish in a Keeneland allowance.
by Nick Kling
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