Racing & Wagering

Barn Notes: Sunday, August 25, 2013

| Churchill Downs Communications | 08/25/2013 #

In Today’s Notes: Team Valor Importing Irish Colt for Futurity; Arlington Played Key Role in French Group I Win

Team Valor International, one of the most recognizable and revered ownerships in the world, looks to live up the surname it shares with Arlington International when the group imports Captain’s Affair from Ireland for the Grade III $150,000 Arlington-Washington Futurity on Sept. 7.  Led by Founder/CEO Barry Irwin, Team Valor is no stranger to having a good 2-year-old at Arlington.  In September 2010, eventual Kentucky Derby and Dubai World Cup winner Animal Kingdom made his debut at the Chicagoland oval.

Captain’s Affair is an Irish-bred son of excellent juvenile Captain Rio – a joint third for top colt in the 2001 International 2-year-old Classification – out of a mare by Arazi’s Group I-winning three-quarter brother Noverre.  “Captain's Affair has run twice, once before we bought him and once for us.  In his May 8 debut, he scored in a photo finish, setting all the pace, getting passed and coming back on to score gamely going seven furlongs on grass at Gowran Park in Ireland for trainer John Murphy,” Irwin explained.  Dismissed at 33-1 that day, the chestnut colt beat horses from such powerhouse stables as Shadwell and Coolmore, as well as the barns of Irish legends Jim Bolger and Dermot Weld.

Captain’s Affair’s form in that win over seven soft and grassy furlongs has held well in recent months.  “The field (that day) was very useful, including the fourth-place finisher Wilshire Boulevard, who was beaten a neck (Friday Aug. 23) in England in the Group 2 Gimcrack Stakes at York (Racecourse) and previously won a Group race in Ireland at The Curragh,” Irwin continued. 

Purchased and given a three-month rest, the colt returned in a salty 7½ furlong affair over good turf.  “Captain's Affair ran back a couple of weeks ago in a Listed race at Tipperary in which he finished fourth. He was beaten about five lengths by a special son of Galileo that is unbeaten in a couple of starts for the powerful Coolmore combine. Our colt was only beaten a half-length for third.  In that race, he was supposed to have followed a couple of horses, but the rider opted instead to make the pace on him and the colt got very tired in the last furlong,” Irwin reported.  The winner that day, Indian Maharaja, is now the 16-1 third choice in the future wagering for the Group I Epsom Derby. 

“Although we were disappointed, that race should set him up perfectly for the Arlington-Washington Futurity over a mile, which is well within his stamina profile. If he runs well in the Futurity, we plan to point him for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita,” explained Irwin, who won the 2010 edition of that race with Team Valor’s homebred Pluck. 

“He worked very well last week and will depart Saturday (Aug. 31) for Chicago. Murphy tells us the colt has always trained and breezed well on Polytrack.  Murphy will prepare the colt, but (Team Valor’s North American trainer) Rick Mettee and his staff will take over upon the colt's arrival.  James Graham rides,” Irwin concluded.

Irwin and his partners have already tasted graded glory at the current Arlington meet when promising sophomore Infinite Magic claimed the Grade III American Derby on July 13 in his third Stateside start since arriving from Emerald Isle.  Though they have yet to win an Arlington-Washington Futurity, they did annex Arlington’s premier prize, the Arlington Million, in 1993 with one of the best turf horses of the last quarter-century, Star of Cozzene.

Arlington International Racecourse’s world-renowned turf course not only lived up to its name in the middle of August with the International Festival of Racing, but it played a pivotal role in preparing one of the best turf juveniles in the world for French Group I Glory earlier in the month.  On Aug. 4, the Wesley Ward-trained globetrotting juvenile No Nay Never was in need of a world-class course on which to have his last major preparatory move before shipping over to Deauville, France for the Group I Prix Morny.  “Chris Polzin and Mr. Duchossois were kind enough to let me breeze on the grass,” Ward explained.  “We were really lucky the way we worked way out in the course where the grass was perfect.  It was like a European course and was very similar to how Deauville felt when I had a chance to step out on that.  He had a nice work that day and came out of it well.”

Previous to the work, the son of Scat Daddy won a maiden at Keeneland on the Polytrack and then took down the Group II Norfolk Stakes at the Royal Ascot meeting in England for owners Paul Shanahan and Ice Wine Stable.  His victory in the latter was so impressive that international powerhouse stable Coolmore acquired controlling interest in the colt.  After the work at Arlington, the impressive colt shipped to France for a second European invasion – this time in one of the most prestigious juvenile races on the continent – and he did not disappoint in a facile Prix Morny victory.  “He’s the best horse I’ve ever had,” Ward stated of his first Group I winner.  “We are going to sit down and figure out what’s next this week.”

While No Nay Never did not subsequently run at Arlington after working over its track, his stablemate – the promising Pablo Del Monte – who also worked on the course that day for Ward is pointing toward the Grade III Arlington-Washington Futurity on Sept. 7.  “Pablo Del Monte – we’re looking at the Futurity with him.  He worked great the other day.” Ward stated of the well bred son of Giant’s Causeway he co-owns with Paul Shanahan.  Pablo Del Monte has won his only start and is a son of Ward’s Keeneland track record-setting filly One Hot Wish.