Rick Mettee

Rick Mettee

Keeneland Photo

Mettee Replaces Motion as Team Valor Trainer

Rick Mettee will train all of the partnership group's North American-based runners.

Team Valor International has hired Rick Mettee to train all of its North American-based racehorses, replacing Graham Motion, the partnership group announced April 5.

Motion, who saddled 2011 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner Animal Kingdom  to take the March 30 Dubai World Cup (UAE-I), has been training the Team Valor horses since late 2010 while also conditioning horses for other owners.

Mettee will commence training for Team Valor May 1, but Motion will continue to train Animal Kingdom. The World Cup winner is expected to make his final career start this June at the Royal Ascot meet in either the group I Queen Anne Stakes or the group I Prince of Wales's Stakes for Arrowfield Stud and Team Valor.

Motion will also remain based at Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md.

"I have room for about 80 at Fair Hill and I'll imagine we'll be full," Motion said April 5 at Keeneland. "The Team Valor barn was a separate situation, so it's not going to affect me in that regard. It was always set up as a situation I could walk away from and that's what I've chosen to do."

Graham Motion
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
Graham Motion at Keeneland on April 5.

"Barry is looking for a private trainer and that's what he needs, and Rick Mettee is going to be the perfect man for that spot. It's a good opportunity for him and I'm just extremely grateful for the last couple years I've had. It doesn't get any higher than winning the Derby and the Dubai World Cup.

"It has been two years that I wouldn't trade for anything."

In the 1990s, Mettee trained horses for Barry Irwin's partnerships, winning the Jaipur Stakes with French import Kanatiyr. His most recent job was as an assistant trainer to Saeed bin Suroor, running Godolphin's U.S. division for the Dubai royal family.

With horses trained mainly by Mettee, Godolphin won the 2009 Eclipse Award as outstanding owner.

"Rick has experience training horses on synthetic and dirt surfaces in America and in Dubai," Irwin said. "He did exceptional work while winning several grade I races with the Godolphin runners. We are looking forward to renewing our relationship with him.

"Graham Motion trained Team Valor's horses privately from our barn at Fair Hill Training Center as an accommodation to us. But he made it clear that he would continue to train for other owners. We understood this and accepted his conditions.

"However, due to the unique type of operation we run with partnership-owned horses, we feel at this time it would serve our needs better to have one trainer that was exclusive to our stable. Graham agrees. He has offered to continue to train our horses through the month of April until our new trainer has set up his operation."

In addition to the World Cup, Motion won the Del Mar Oaks (gr. IT) with Summer Soiree and the Matriarch Stakes (gr. IT) with Gypsy's Warning for Team Valor.

Mettee will operate primarily out of Team Valor's barn at Fair Hill. He is a native of Maryland and first rose to prominence as an assistant to trainer John Gosden in Southern California in the 1980s. Gosden trained champions Bates Motel and Royal Heroine, who defeated males in the inaugural Breeder's Cup Mile (gr. IT). Gosden recommended Mettee for the job with Godolphin.

In five seasons Mettee oversaw the U.S. roster that won such prestigious races as the Matriarch, Forego (gr. I), Cigar Mile (gr. I), Vosburgh (gr. I), Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I), and two straight editions of the Beldame (gr. I).