Multiple Graded-Stakes Winner Posts Front-Running Victory in Turf Sprint
LAUREL, MD – R. Larry Johnson’s multiple graded-stakes winner True Valour, an 8-year-old Irish-bred gelding racing for the first time in 13 months, made a triumphant return to competition with a front-running victory in Saturday’s $100,000 King T. Leatherbury at Laurel Park.
The 5 ½-furlong Leatherbury for 3-year-olds and up was the first of five $100,000 stakes on the second of consecutive Spring Stakes Spectacular Saturdays at Laurel, and one of the first three scheduled for its world-class turf course this season.
Ridden by Feargal Lynch for trainer Graham Motion, True Valor ($8.80) completed the distance in 1:02.10 over a firm All Along turf course for his fifth career stakes win and first since taking the 2019 City of Hope Mile (G3) and Thunder Road (G3) in back-to-back starts at Santa Anita.
“I think he makes me look good. I thought Larry was crazy when he wanted to bring him back from an injury as an 8-year-old,” Motion said. “He’s just a really easy horse. He’s done everything right since he came in beginning of the year. I was very surprised to see him on the lead, quite honestly.”
True Valour broke sharply from Post 3 and quickly found himself in front chased by 17-1 long shot Can the Queen with 9-5 favorite Grateful Bred, also coming off a layoff, tracking in fourth on the inside. The first quarter-mile went in 21.89 seconds, but Lynch was able to give him a breather the second quarter, with the half going in 44.35.
“We slowed it down nice. We weren’t getting any pressure, which he was loving. Coming off that long layoff, I wanted to just try and save a bit and not give him too hard a race,” Lynch said. “I was surprised I was on the lead. I was expecting [Grateful Bred] to jump and go and try and keep tabs with him, but he was fresh and well today. He broke good and the way the turf’s riding, it’s hard to make up any ground. I just didn’t want to disappoint him. I didn’t want to take it away from him. It’s a sprint and he’s the best horse in the race, so just keep it simple.”
True Valour was still going strong up front when Grateful Bred, who jockey Jevian Toledo tipped to the outside around the far turn, ranged up to make a challenge. True Valour kicked in again going five furlongs in 56.02 and had plenty left to hold off Grateful Bred to win by a half-length.
Multiple stakes winner Battle Station rallied up the inside to get third, followed by Can the Queen, Fair Catch, Ima Pharoah, American d’Oro, Valued Notion, Dendrobia and Rad Paisley.
True Valour had not run since finishing sixth, beaten 2 ½ lengths, in the March 2021 Al Quoz Sprint (G1) in Dubai.
“He wasn’t beaten very far that day. It was a strangely run race, where they split up halfway down the course and it looked like he went on the wrong side of it, but you can’t predict that stuff,” Motion said. “He’s a really honest, hard-knocking horse. Thanks to Larry for picking out this spot today.”
Johnson purchased True Valour for $225,000 at Fasig-Tipton’s July 2020 horses of racing age sale. The son of Kodiak out of the Acclamation mare Sutton Veny also won the Ballycorus (G3) in 2018 at Leopardstown Racecourse in Ireland, and was second by less than a length in the Joe Hernandez (G2) at Santa Anita in his only other 2021 start.
“He has a stallion’s pedigree, and that was why Larry bought him in the first place,” Motion said. “He was unlucky. He was second in a Grade 2 in California, then he came out of the Al Quoz with an injury. We gave him the time and here we are as an 8-year-old. Maybe he can stamp himself as a stallion this year.”
Live racing returns to Laurel Park with an eight-race program Sunday starting at 12:40 p.m. The feature comes in Race 7, an entry-level allowance for fillies and mares 3 and up that drew an overflow field of 15 for one mile on the Dahlia turf course. Peter E. Blum’s homebred Get Serious, a last-out maiden winner March 12 at Tampa Bay Downs, is the 3-1 program favorite.
Laurel Park Press Release
Photo: True Valour (Laurel Park Photo)