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Ahmed Ajtebi rides Vale of York to win the Breeders' Cup Juvenile race Santa Anita 07.11.2009

Vale Of York: prevailed in a tight finish to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile

  PICTURE: Getty Images  

Vale Of York: cheap buy who scooped the jackpot

Vale Of York
2 b c Invincible Spirit - Red Vale (Halling)

IN the aftermath of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, most American commentators found it hard to come to terms with the defeat of the strong local favourite Lookin At Lucky.

They had come to witness the unbeaten Smart Strike colt’s coronation as ruler of the nation’s two-year-old division, and it did not happen as had been anticipated.

He may well be the best of his age in the US, but finishing second to an Irish-bred, British-trained supposed no-hoper was not the ideal way to prove the point.

Unsurprisingly, the most disappointed of the home-based spectators was Lookin At Lucky's trainer, Bob Baffert, who remarked: "It’s just frustrating to know you have much the best horse and to come up short like that."

Was he really much the best on the day? Ofcourse, his draw on the far outside did not help, and he was forced to go wide around both bends, meeting a bit of interference on the first of them.

But on both days of this memorable Breeders’ Cup fixture we saw horses overcome similar or worse inconvenience and emerge triumphant; it wasn’t all plain sailing for Vale Of York, the colt who proved most photogenic in the blanket finish to the Juvenile.

Vale Of York has come a long way in a short time. He was not seen in action until late July, when he won a 7f median auction maiden at York in impressive style, taking command when still on the bridle two from home and drawing clear under the minimum of driving.

Fifth place on his next appearance over the same course and distance a month later represented no kind of setback, because that was in Group 3 company and the 2009 Acomb Stakes was clearly a vintage edition.

Although he never really promised to get togrips with the principals, he ran to a 7lb higher mark than on his debut and went into many notebooks as an improver with prospects of reaching the top.

Three weeks later he collected a Listed win at Goodwood, showing a sparkling turnof foot, while hinting that the step up to a mile might not go amiss.

He was given his chance over that longer trip at the end of September in the Group 2 Royal Lodge Stakes and was perhaps unlucky not to make the most of it, but onceimpeded by Joshua Tree’s wayward course, victory was out of the question, and he had to settle for third place.

On his first trip abroad, Vale Of York encountered softer ground than he had met before in the Group 1 Gran Criterium at San Siro, but it did not seem to bother him. What did pose a problem, apparently, was the crowd.

Ahmed Ajtebi felt that victory was in his grasp until his mount lost focus in the last furlong, andalthough he rallied close home he fell short by a neck against Hearts Of Fire.

Still, none of those performances could make Vale Of York a fancied contender for North America’s two-year-old championship event.

To imagine him making any kind of impression in a race on an alien surface over a longer trip than he had ever covered before, it was necessary to recognise that he had progressed with each run and probably had not finished improving – andto keep faith with a stable that had lately enjoyed a tremendously successful run with its juveniles.

The pay-off for the enlightened minority was a shade over 30-1, and they owed plenty to the colt's rider, who found himself trapped along the inside early in the straight, but skilfully directed his mount where there was room to deliver a challenge. Vale Of York finished with a will and was not to be denied when surrounded by three foes in the final strides.

Then came the news that Saeed Bin Suroor planned to bring the colt back to America next May for a tilt at the Kentucky Derby, the race that Sheikh Mohammed has regularly targeted over the years to no avail.

It will be a different distance and a different surface again, but who is to say that this isn’t the colt who can fulfil that dream? He settles better now than in his early races, he can deliver a powerful finishing kick, and his pedigree does not preclude him from excelling over 1m2f.

Of course, Vale Of York’s sire, Invincible Spirit, was a sprinter, securing all seven of his victories over 6f, including the Group 1 Haydock Sprint Cup on his final appearance as a five-year-old.

But lately we have become used to sprinting sons of Green Desert getting stock capable of winning over middle distances, and Invincible Spirit already has his counterpart to Oasis Dream’s Midday in Lawman, hero of the Prix du Jockey-Club in 2007.

Lawman came from the first crop by Invincible Spirit, whose prowess as a sire was first noted for his spate of precocious juvenile winners – a world-record 35 in 2006 – and most of his best performers since then have been sprinters.

He has continued to excel with his youngsters, notable among them being Fleeting Spirit and Madame Trop Vite, both winners of the Group 2 Flying Childers Stakes, and one who has come good in recent weeks is Our Jonathan, successful in the Group 3 Cornwallis Stakes at Ascot before following up with a victory in the Criterium de Maisons-Laffitte.

But Fleeting Spirit was not just a precocious two-year-old, adding the Group 2 Temple Stakes to her cv at three and the Group 1 July Cup this term. She also gave a good account of herself, albeit out of the money, when under three lengths off the winner in Saturday's Breeders' Cup Sprint.

Vale Of York's Kentucky Derby aspirations dependon his being more of a Lawman than a Fleeting Spirit in aptitude, and we should be able to take that as read. He has never even run over the distance that suited his sire best, he has mastered an extended mile, and he looks as though he will go further.

The most intriguing aspect of his pedigree is that he has the
full-brothers Kris and Diesis in his third generation, which might not seem encouraging if we recall their own racing careers, but the knowledge that both sired Classic winners at 1m4f or more should amount to reassurance.

Vale Of York's dam Red Vale did not race, but she is a half-sister to Uraib, who stayed 1m1f well in Graded company in California, and their dam Hamsaat was a sister to Batshoof, a Group 1 performer here who was best suited by 1m2f.

Godolphin has spent fortunes in its quest for a Kentucky Derby hero. Maybe this comparatively cheap acquisition can do the trick.

Bred by Stock Vale Ltd


Sire: Invincible Spirit

Bred by Nawara Stud Co Ltd in Ireland. Won 7 (all 6f) of 17 races, viz. 2 out of 4 at 2 years, 0 out of 2 at 3 years, 3
(inc. Macdonogh Boland S.-Gr3) out of 6 at 4 years, 2
(Duke of York S.-Gr3, Haydock Park Sprint Cup-Gr1) out of 5 at 5 years. RPR 119 at 2 years, 107 at 3 years, 119 at 4 years, 120 at 5 years. Earned £247,786.

Strong, medium-sized (15.3hh), attractive sort, in the mould of a sprinter. A game, consistent performer, usually held up, with a fine turn of foot. Suffered broken pelvis in spring at 3 and, though round-actioned, did not compete on rain-affected ground thereafter.

Well bred. Half-brother to 7 other winners, inc Sadian
(by Shirley Heights; Gr3), Acts Of Grace (by Bahri; Gr3) and Massarra (by Danehill; Listed, Gr2-placed). By a top-class sprinter and noted sire of sprinters and milers. Dam won Prix de Diane, half-sister to Chiang Mai (Gr3) and 8 other winners.
Family of champion sire Pitcairn.

Stands at Irish National Stud, Tully, Kildare, at a fee of E50,000. Sire of 4 northern hemisphere crops of racing age, inc. notable winners: Captain Marvelous (Gr2), Conquest (Gr2), Lawman (Prix du Jockey-Club-Gr1, Prix Jean Prat-Gr1), Age Of Chivalry (Gr3), Campfire Glow (Gr2), Fleeting Spirit (July Cup-Gr1), Madame Trop Vite (Gr2), Our Jonathan (Gr2), Vale Of York (Breeders’ Cup Juvenile-Gr1). Also stood in Australia 2003-06, sire there of Gr3 winner I Am Invincible.

Dam: Red Vale

Bred by Shadwell Estate Company Ltd in Ireland. Unraced.
Well bred. By a multiple Gr1 winner and successful sire.

Half-sister to 7 winners, inc. Uraib (by Mark Of Esteem; Gr3 in US), dam winning sister to Batshoof (Gr2 winner, Gr1-placed),half-sister to Regular Guest (champion miler in Hong Kong). Granddam winner, sister to Gr3 winner Ancestral, and to the dam of General Monash (Gr2), King Of Kings (Gr1), Amethyst (Listed, Gr1-placed) and Lucky (Gr3), and granddam of Gr2 winner China Visit. Next dam Gr3 winner, half-sister to Gr1 winners Steel Heart and Smokey Lady and Gr3 winner Chili Girl. High-class family.

To stud at 5 years, and dam of: Vee Gita (2004 f by Vettori; unraced), Violet Flame (2006 f by Kalanisi; unplaced only start to date), Vale Of York (2007 c by Invincible Spirit
Gr1 winner).

She has a yearling colt by Elusive City (sold 60,000gns Tattersalls October, Part 1) and returned to him in 2008. Barren to Kalanisi in 2005.


Intriguingly bred, tough, progressive individual. Santa Anita run suggests that the Kentucky Derby distance may suit.




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