06/15/2013 11:38PM

Churchill Downs: Valiant Boy SBFAR dominant in President of the U.A.E. Cup


Valiant Boy SBFAR lived up to his Horse of the Year billing on Saturday, drawing off to win by five lengths in the $103,659 President of the U.A.E. Cup at Churchill Downs, North America’s richest race for Arabians.

The French-bred son of Darweesh ran easily along the inside as Smoke House and VIP paced the field through an opening quarter mile of :27.41 seconds. Smoke House maintained a comfortable one-length cushion down the backstretch and widened his margin heading into the final turn.

In X Hess began to move up the rail as the field headed into the turn, and approached the leader’s inside hip, drawing even as they turned into the stretch. Meanwhile, jockey Joe Rocco Jr., moved Valiant Boy SBFAR off the rail behind the leaders and rallied five-wide with a quarter-mile to go.

Rocco put Valiant Boy SBFAR under strong urging to assume command in upper stretch, then hand-rode for the final 100 yards to cross the finish a comfortable five lengths ahead of In X Hess. Pacesetter Smoke House ran on to finish third, another five lengths behind the runner-up in the eight-horse field.

“He has gears,” Rocco said. “Once I found a hole, I swung him out and he accelerated nicely. It was nice, I kind of got to see everyone else moving and ask their horses, and I’m still waiting there, so I had an idea how much horse everyone else had.”

Valiant Boy SBFAR ($4.40) completed the 1 1/16-mile race in 1:55.10 on a track rated fast.

Bred in France by Shaikh Tahnoon bin Zayed, Valiant Boy SBFAR is owned by Guy Neivens and trained by Ron Martino. The 5-year-old horse is out of the Barour De Cardonne mare Thumb Print. He came into Saturday’s race as the prohibitive favorite, having won the Darley Award, Arabian racing’s equivalent of an Eclipse Award, as Horse of the Year in 2012. He improved his career record to seven wins in 15 starts for earnings of $170,020.

Martino, sporting his trademark winner's circle victory cigar, said after the race that although he was saddling a reigning champion, he wasn’t ready to chalk it up as a win until the horse crossed the wire.

“You never know what happens,” Martino said, describing Valiant Boy SBFAR’s trip. “You feel more comfortable as you’re coming down the lane. You’re watching the horse on the backside and he’s laying like you hoped he would, then everything starts unraveling and the whole race itself just takes its place.”

This year’s edition of the President of the U.A.E. Cup was Martino’s third consecutive victory in the race, after saddling champion T M Fred Texas to wins in 2011 and 2012.

“I don’t care how many races like this you win, it’s always special,” he said.

This year’s President of the U.A.E. Cup, rated as a Grade 1 event by The Arabian Jockey Club, was the second edition held at Churchill Downs, following the 2011 race won by eventual Horse of the Year T M Fred Texas. The race was held on the Preakness Stakes undercard at Pimlico Race Course in 2012, and was hosted by Keeneland Race Course in 2010.