Juddmonte Farms' Three Valleys nosed out We All Love Aleyna in the $338,000 Del Mar Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIT) on the turf Sunday to record his first graded stakes victory in the United States.
Patrick Valenzuela frantically urged the 9-10 choice Three Valleys to victory when it appeared that We All Love Aleyna, who finally got through on the inside, might snatch it away. Pacesetter Wild Buddy was a half-length back in third in a determined effort at odds of 30-1.
The final time for the Del Mar Breeders' Cup Handicap, which was run for the first time on the turf, was a track record 1:32.21 -- .01 faster than the old mark set by Touch of the Blues in 2003. Three Valleys carried top weight of 119 pounds, which was three less than Touch of the Blues.
Trainer Bobby Frankel saddled Three Valleys, a 4-year-old son of Diesis
who won the Middlepark Stakes (Eng-I) at Newmarket in October 2003. The streaking Frankel won the Forego (gr. I) with Mass Media at Saratoga and Del Mar's Palomar Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) with Intercontinental on Saturday.
The victory puts Three Valleys into contention for the NetJets Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT).
"It just shows how versatile a horse he is," said Frankel, noting that it was difficult to make up much ground on the Del Mar turf layout. "He can come from way far back or he can lay up on a very fast pace. I don't think you've seen the best of this horse."
Three Valleys had an eventful journey after falling back along the rail as Wild Buddy and jockey Tyler Baze sped through fractions of :22 1/5, :45 and 1:08 2/5 with Siren Lure in the tracking spot. Valenzuela took up on the backstretch while improving position and had to check hard on the far turn behind a tiring Sam Forli. Angled to the far outside, Three Valleys eventually wore down the others and had Wild Buddy's measure on his inside in deep stretch. But We All Love Aleyna, bottled up on the inside in the crowded stretch under Kent Desormeaux, had a closing burst to gain a short lead before being nipped at the wire.
"It was tight going into that far turn, and I was following Kent (Desormeaux on We All Love Aleyna) around there," Valenzuela said. "He went down inside, and I went out and the race was on. My horse stayed on his left (lead), but that was OK. He was still kicking and that was all that mattered."
"I didn't know for sure if I'd won it, but I thought I might have," said Desormeaux, who replaced the Corey Nakatani, injured earlier in the day, on We All Love Aleyna. "It was a head bob. I knew it was a case of whose head was up and whose was down."
Valenzuela became familiar with Three Valleys in the chestnut colt's last start, a one-mile optional allowance/claiming race July 24. Three Valleys made a similar late move on the outside in that race to win in 1:32 2/5. That start was the first in eight months. Three Valleys turned in a third-place finish, 1 1/2 lengths behind stablemate Leroidesanimaux in the Citation Handicap (gr. IT) in his American debut at Hollywood Park in November.
Three Valleys improved to 4-2-2 in 10 starts with earnings of $509,338 while paying $3.80, $3.20, and $2.60. We All Love Aleyna returned $5.60 and $5.80. Wild Buddy was $8.60 to show.
Siren Lure finished fourth, followed by Toasted, Geronimo, Just Wonder, Whilly, Sam Forli, and Tsigane.