When multiple graded stakes winner and millionaire Valid was purchased for $15,000 by Tom Thurman at the 2017 Keeneland January sale, the 7-year-old gelding was relocated west. Miles away on the East Coast, jockey Nik Juarez was keeping an eye on his former mount.
The son of Medaglia d'Oro made his first start for his new connections, approximately one year after winning the 2016 Skip Away Stakes (G3), at Nebraska's Fonner Park in the Dowd Mile Stakes in April and finished off the board. He never showed his previous form in three starts for his new owner and trainer, with his best effort being a second in a $13,500 allowance at Arapahoe Park June 10, but he still had a special place in Juarez's heart.
"I got in contact with the owner Tom Thurman. ... we stayed in contact for a couple of months about (Valid's) current works and the races that they were pointing him toward," Juarez said. "I didn't pressure him to sell him to me, I just said, 'You know when he's done running, he has a home here.'"
At the beginning of August, Juarez received a call from Thurman saying Valid was officially retired. With the help of New Jersey-based trainer Kelly Breen, Juarez arranged for his new purchase to make the cross-country trip from Colorado to his current location at Summerfield Stables near Pikesville, Md. For now, the 12-time winner will enjoy some downtime, but Juarez isn't ruling out a second career.
"Some horses don't really adjust to the farm life, so I just want him to relax and be a horse. ... If he's able to be ridden, he'll be ridden. But right now he has a tendon issue so we have to keep an eye on that," the rider said.
Valid retires with a 12-10-7 record from 40 starts and earnings of $1,104,647. Bred by the late Edward P. Evans in Virginia out of the stakes-winning Grand Slam mare Grand Prayer, the gelding began his career racing for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin and Darley.
After seven starts with Darley, he was entered into the 2013 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga fall mixed sale at age 3, where he was purchased by Carolyn Vogel for $115,000. Racing for Vogel's Crossed Sabres Farm and trainer Marcus Vitali, Valid began to blossom, picking up wins in the Monmouth Cup Stakes (G2), the Eight Miles West Stakes, and the Fred W. Hooper Stakes (G3) as a 4- and 5-year-old.
It wasn't until Aug. 30, 2015 that Juarez rode Valid in a race. But in their first afternoon together, the pair took the Philip H. Iselin Stakes (G3) at Monmouth Park by 3 1/2 lengths, notching Juarez's first graded stakes victory.
"I rode him three days after I lost my apprenticeship and we won my first graded stake—the grade 3 Iselin—and then we went to the Breeders' Cup together," Juarez said.
While they finished fifth behind Liam's Map in the Las Vegas Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1) at Keeneland in November of 2015, they were reunited in the 2016 Donn Handicap (G1) the following February, finishing second by two lengths to Mshawish .
Then, they were awarded third after being bumped badly in the stretch and nearly going down to the ground in the Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2) that March. Their last race together was the Skip Away in April of 2016 at Gulfstream Park, which they won by 1 3/4 lengths.
Although Valid had some other riders, Juarez says their bond was special and he'd sometimes be asked to help out with the runner if he was being unruly in the mornings, a problem Juarez had a creative solution to.
"I'd watch other riders get run off with him and Marcus would be like, 'Nik, get on this morning and gallop him.' I'm lighter than those guys but he would always respond to me," Juarez said. "It's funny because he'd always like to be sung to. Even when I rode him, I'd sing to him in a race to get him to calm down and get him to come back to me and get him to rate a little bit. I would just make up something.
"He's a special horse," he added. "It's inexplanable when you have a relationship with a horse like that. I ride a lot of horses but it's something different when you ride somebody like him or you're around a horse like him."