(Breeders’ Cup 2022 / All Photos by Coady Photography)
From the Breeders’ Cup Media Team:
Amo Racing, Mrs. R O’Callaghan, G De Aguiar’s Valiant Force produced one of Royal Ascot’s biggest upsets June 22 when he won the £110,000 Norfolk Stakes (G2) at odds of 150-1, earning a guaranteed start in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G1) via the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series: Win and You’re In.
Now in its 16th season, the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series is an international series of 80 stakes races whose winners receive automatic qualifying positions, with fees paid into a corresponding race of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, which is scheduled to be held Nov. 3-4 at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California.
Winning trainer Adrian Murray, who has a small stable in Rathowen, Co. Westmeath, Ireland, had never had a Group winner and trained only five winners on the flat before last year, and Valiant Force, a son of Malibu Moon out of Vigui’s Heart by Quality Road, was a maiden coming into the race.
Yet the colt ridden by Rossa Ryan was a decisive winner of the 5-furlong race, hitting the front at the quarter-pole. He was driven out to beat Mac (GB), with 7-4 favorite Elite Status (GB) third. American Rascal, the 4-1 second choice, trained by Wesley Ward, finished 13th of 14. The winning time was :59.75 on a course rated good to firm.
Valiant Force was the biggest-priced winner of the Norfolk Stakes and the joint highest-priced winner ever at Royal Ascot, a record held solely by 2020 Coventry Stakes (G2) winner Nando Parrodo (GB) until Thursday.
His victory ended a run of high-profile big race near-misses for Amo Racing, run by football agent Kia Joorabchian, who has pumped significant sums of money into racehorse ownership.
Earlier this month King Of Steel carried the Amo Racing colors into second place in the Betfred Derby (G1) at odds of 66-1. Last year, his horses filled second and third places in the Norfolk Stakes after encountering interference from the winner, The Ridler (GB), an outcome the owner took to appeal only to have it dismissed. They were among eight previously placed finishes for Amo at the meeting.
Joorabchian said: “For Adrian Murray this means the world, and I don’t have words to describe this moment. To have my first winner in the Norfolk Stakes which we lost in such a cruel way means the world. We have worked for this.”
Joorabchian, who represents some of the world’s top soccer players, continued: “This is one of the best sports in the world. For someone like us to finally win one kind of shows that you don’t have to be one of the really big guys to come in and make a little bit of difference.
“We are competing and most importantly competing at a very high level. To come second in the Derby twice and then finally to win a Royal Ascot race we’ve been knocking on the door of, now we can stop muttering.”
Murray said: “I can’t believe it. I fell into racing by accident. A friend of mine got me involved in the flat. It’s magic. We were third here on Tuesday [in the Coventry Stakes] and I wondered if that would ever happen again.
“We knew Valiant Force was a nice horse and I couldn’t believe the price – he was only beaten less than a length by His Majesty first time out and was 150-1 today. It didn’t make sense – I knew he was much better than that.”
As part of the benefits of the Challenge Series, Breeders’ Cup will pay the entry fees Valiant Force to start in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G1), which will be run at 5 furlongs at Santa Anita. Breeders’ Cup also will provide a travel allowance for all starters based outside of North America to compete in the World Championships.
ABOUT BREEDERS’ CUP
Breeders’ Cup Limited administers the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, Thoroughbred racing’s year-end Championships, as well as the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series: Win and You’re In, which provides automatic starting positions into the Championships races through an 80-race series hosted by 11 countries, and the U.S.-based Dirt Dozen Bonus Series. The Breeders’ Cup supports and operates under the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA), which, for the first time, establishes a national, uniform set of rules applicable to every Thoroughbred racing participant and racetrack. HISA seeks to enhance the safety of both horse and rider and to protect the integrity of the sport to the benefit of all racing participants, fans, and bettors.
The 2023 Breeders’ Cup World Championships, consisting of 14 Grade 1 Championship races, and $31 million in purses and awards, is scheduled to be held Nov. 3-4 at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California. The Championships will return to the West Coast in 2024 with Del Mar in Del Mar, California, set to host Nov. 1-2. The Championships will be televised live by NBC Sports. Press releases appear on the Breeders’ Cup website, BreedersCup.com. You can also follow the Breeders’ Cup on social media.