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OCEANPORT, NY – Jockey Nik Juarez very confidently handled Valiance to victory in Saturday’s off-turf edition of the $150,000 Eatontown Stakes (G3) at Monmouth Park.
Valiance was the 4/5 favorite in the field of five that was decimated with scratches once it was rained off of the turf course and put onto the sloppy main track.
Valedictorian established her prominence on the front end and received initial pressure from Gotham Gala to her outside; Valiance tucked in just behind them in third.
Valedictorian posted opening fractions of :23.85, :47.68, and 1:12.60 down the backstretch and into the far turn, but Gotham Gala ranged up to take the lead midway through cornering.
Juarez tipped Valiance out to commence a three-wide move near the top of the stretch and remained stoically poised aboard the betting favorite as she began to inch past Gotham Gala in the stretch.
Never put to the test, the Todd Pletcher-trained Valiance crossed 1 1/2 lengths clear in a final time of 1:44.25 for the 1 1/16-mile route.
“I was really confident today,” Juarez said. “We had a perfect trip sitting right behind the speed. When we turned for home, I was able to tip her out and she was much the best. She just ran away from them. I knew Valedictorian would go out for the lead, so I just wanted to wait with her and let her settle, and we were able to do just that.”
Gotham Gala was a whopping 15 1/4 lengths clear of Valedictorian for second. Super Tigress and Repatriated Gem trailed the entire race before completing the strung-out order of finish.
The list of Off-Turf scratches equaled the number of runners who remained in the field: La Australiana, Noor Sahara, Tapit Today, Madita, and Nay Lady Nay all opted out.
Valiance’s win was her first on dirt (she was fourth in her prior attempt, the off-turf Powder Break Stakes at Gulfstream Park in May) and increased her lifetime earnings mark to $229,575 for co-owners Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Martin Schwartz, and China Horse Club (who also bred her). The 4-year-old Tapit filly improved her record to 7-5-0-0, a mark that includes 2 wins over the local turf last summer.
“I really wasn’t concerned at all when it came off the grass and the track was sloppy,” Juarez said. “I got to ride a race on the dirt with her at Gulfstream. Todd had her in stakes race in Florida and it came off the grass and she ran on the dirt that day, so I was happy she had a dirt race under her because all of her other starts have been on the grass.”
Valiance returned $3.80 to win, $2.80 to place, and $2.10 to show. Gotham Gala brought back $3.40 to place and $2.20 to show, while Valedictorian paid $2.40 to show.
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