02/07/2015 6:52PM

Valid wins tight race-long duel to score in Fred Hooper Stakes

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Barbara D. Livingston
Valid wins the Fred Hooper Stakes by a neck Saturday at Gulfstream Park.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Two of the gamest and most consistent horses around, Valid and Grande Shores, put on quite a show in Saturday’s $100,000 Fred Hooper Stakes at Gulfstream Park. The two battled eyeball to eyeball for the entire mile before Valid narrowly prevailed, posting a well-deserved neck victory over the hard-luck runner-up with the 6-5 favorite Race Day finishing another neck farther back in third.

Valid came into the one-mile Hooper having posted triple-digit Beyers in seven of his last eight starts, while Grande Shores entered the race having finished no worse than second in his last 12 starts. The pair hooked up on the lead right from the outset, disputing honest fractions of 23.52 seconds, 45.63, and 1:09.98 for the opening six furlongs. The leaders remained well clear of the others turning for home, then continued to slug it out down the stretch, with Valid maintaining a narrow advantage and Grande Shores never giving an inch to the wire.

Race Day, shuffled back a bit during the early running of the Grade 3 Hooper, advanced to closer contention entering the stretch, but could only gain gradually on the top pair through the final furlong. Confrontation, the runner-up to Lea in the Hal’s Hope four weeks earlier, raced well placed throughout but had no closing response, finishing fourth, another 2 1/4 lengths behind Race Day.

Valid, who is trained by Marcus Vitali for the Crossed Sabres Farm LLC, completed the distance in 1:36.35 under jockey Paco Lopez and paid $10.20.

“He’s amazing. When I ask him, he responds every time. He doesn’t let me down,” said Vitali. “He got bumped around last time. I thought he should have won that day. He got into a little trouble that day. I just told Paco to get out of there, let him be where he wants to be, and when you ask him to go, just don’t stop asking or he’ll stop running.”

Vitali said he has no plans at the current time for Valid’s next start.