Ralph Nicks, a former assistant to Bill Mott, has been hired by Team Valor and will become the stable's private trainer, Team Valor president Barry Irwin said Tuesday.
Nicks, 36, served 15 years with Mott, mostly handling the Kentucky string, until trying a stint recently as a jockey agent for Mark Guidry.
Starting in 2004, Team Valor's horses will be headquartered at Saratoga racetrack and winter in Florida at Palm Meadows. Nicks, however, will winter this coming year at Oaklawn Park, passing through Kentucky en route to New York.
Nicks will go to Oaklawn Park with about 15 horses and by the time he reaches New York, the number of horses under his care is expected to increase to about 35.
"We feel fortunate to be able to get a proven trainer of Ralph's ability," Irwin said. "The horsemen and racing officials we have spoken to about Ralph rate him as highly as we do. He is a proven producer of winners.
"Our main reasons for making this move are to have all of our horses in one locale and to have them train where they have their best chance to stay sound. We consider the Oklahoma track (in Saratoga Springs) to have the best surface in the land.
"Ralph will start out in Hot Springs because we want Tiger Hunt to prepare for the Triple Crown at Oaklawn Park. This colt figures to be better suited to the Oaklawn Park track than the speed-favoring strip at Gulfstream Park."
Nicks will start off with all of the horses under the Team Valor umbrella with the exception of Ipi Tombe--a majority of which is owned by WinStar Farm--and a few horses in California.
All future horses purchased by Team Valor will be trained by Nicks.