04/05/2013 12:38PM

Team Valor, Graham Motion parting ways

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Barbara D. Livingston
Graham Motion on his tenure with Team Valor International: "I am extremely proud of the job my team has done."

Less than one week after Team Valor and trainer Graham Motion appeared in the winner’s circle of the Dubai World Cup at Meydan Racecourse with Animal Kingdom, the ownership group and the trainer announced Friday that they have agreed to end their business relationship, with trainer Rick Mettee set to take over Team Valor’s horses at the start of May.

Barry Irwin, the founder and managing partner of Team Valor, said the pair had decided to split after Motion declined to train exclusively for Team Valor, which expects to have 40 horses, including eight 2-year-olds, in training for 2013.

“I just feel that we get more bang for our buck with a guy that is 100 percent devoted to our horses,” Irwin said. “It wasn’t like I was disappointed in him. If Graham could be that guy [a private trainer for Team Valor], that would have been great.”

Motion, who was at Keeneland on Friday to start four horses – none for Team Valor – said he wanted to limit his comments to a statement he released via thisishorseracing.com. However, Motion did say, “It was always set up as something that I could walk away from, and that is what I am doing.”

Motion said he currently has 70 to 80 horses at Fair Hill Training Center.

In his statement, Motion said: “We have enjoyed the association and are immensely grateful for the opportunities given by Barry and the partners at Team Valor International. At this point I feel that Team Valor is best served by a private trainer situation and this is not something I am prepared to do.”

Animal Kingdom, who is in England training for a race at Royal Ascot after last Saturday’s win in the $10 million Dubai World Cup, will remain under Motion’s care until the horse is retired, according to Irwin. Earlier this year, Team Valor sold a majority share in the 2011 Kentucky Derby winner to Arrowfield Stud in Australia, where he is expected to start his stud career this summer for the Southern Hemisphere breeding season. Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum’s Darley announced earlier this week that it had purchased a 29 percent interest in the horse and that the horse will stand the Northern Hemisphere breeding season at Darley’s Jonabell Farm in Lexington, Ky.

The 5-year-old may make one start at Royal Ascot prior to his retirement.

Team Valor’s horses will continue to be trained out of Fair Hill, Irwin said. Mettee, who had trained some of Irwin’s partnership horses in the 1990s and has over the past several years trained the U.S. horses of the international Godolphin racing operation, will take over the Team Valor horses as of May 1.

“As a matter of fact, I offered to buy a barn at Fair Hill in the 1990s and have Rick train for us then,” Irwin said. “I really thought Fair Hill was the place we wanted to be. But Rick was young then, in his 30s, and there were things he wanted to do with his career. Now that he’s done them, it’s all working out.”