Valedictorian Follows Dam’s Success in Eatontown

Daughter of Smart N Classy earned her second graded score.

Epic Racing’s Valedictorian returned home to score decisively in the $165,000 Eatontown Stakes (G3T) June 22 at Monmouth Park. The New Jersey-bred mare followed the success of her dam, Smart N Classy, who won the Eatontown in 2005.

This year’s 1 1/16-mile turf test for fillies and mares 3 and up marked Valedictorian’s second graded stakes score, giving her three wins in six starts this season.

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A 5-year-old daughter of Temple City trained by Kelly Breen, Valedictorian won her first stakes race nearly a year ago in the Jersey Girl Handicap and added the All Along Stakes at Laurel Park in September. She made the grade this year in the Suwannee River Stakes (G3T) at Gulfstream Park Feb. 9 and won the Sand Springs Stakes there March 30.

Her lone off-the-board finish this year came in the Longines Churchill Distaff Turf Mile Stakes (G2T) May 4 at Churchill Downs.

Returning to form Saturday, Valedictorian was held in second by jockey Paco Lopez, who let Conquest Hardcandy speed to the lead. The two were seven lengths ahead of the other four runners when the first quarter-mile went in :23.77 and remained 4 1/2 lengths in front when a half-mile went in :47.86.

The field came together as three-quarters of a mile went in 1:12.29, and Conquest Hardcandy could not maintain her lead. Remaining up front proved no problem for Valedictorian, who pulled away to cross the wire 2 3/4 lengths in front. The final time was 1:43.70 on a turf course rated good.

Valedictorian paid $3.60, $2.60, and $2.10 as the 4-5 favorite.

“It wasn’t what I anticipated (with the early speed duel). But she has rated before, so it didn’t worry me,” Breen said. “The worrisome part to me was the time of the race, that they went (fast) the first quarter. It was a legitimate pace.

“Paco rode her smartly. He got her to the outside, she settled, and when I saw that she was doing it well and Paco had his trademark reins dangling, I knew we were OK. I was just worried she would be too sharp off her last couple of workouts, a little too eager. But it worked out fine.

“There are not too many like her. It’s really fun to have her in our barn. She likes it here, but I didn’t know if she would like it today with all of the rain we had—although she did win on a yielding turf at Laurel. But I was concerned about the footing.”

Maid To Remember rallied from last to finish second in a photo finish over Inflexibility. My Sistersledge, Conquest Hardcandy, and Dynatail completed the order of finish.

“I was a little concerned early because I thought I would be the only speed,” Lopez said. “I was fine taking her back and then going outside after that other horse was pushing for the lead. I was worried about the turf course, but it was good. I thought it would be very wet, and it wasn’t. My horse pulled me to the front, and I knew what I had. I just had to get her to relax. She is a nice mare, very consistent.”

Valedictorian was bred by John Bowers, who raced her under the name Roseland Farm Stable with trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. before Red Diamond Stable and trainer Michelle Nihei claimed her for $25,000 in January of her sophomore season. Epic Racing soon bought into Valedictorian, and she made her debut with Breen in August 2017.

Valedictorian has a 12-6-3 record from 28 starts and $672,765 in earnings.

Smart N Classy, by Smart Strike, has produced five winners from five starters, including a 3-year-old daughter of Stay Thirsty named Stay Smart, a Breen trainee who broke her maiden Friday at Monmouth. Smart N Classy last produced a yearling colt named He’spuregold by Vancouver.