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Valedictorian Makes the Grade in Suwannee River

Feb 9, 2019
Goes Gate to Wire to Spring $21.20 Upset in 1 1/8-Mile Turf Stakes

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Epic Racing’s Valedictorian, a two-time stakes winner last year, graduated in her third career try against graded company with a front-running 2 ½-length upset of favored Rymska in Saturday’s $150,000 Suwannee River (G3) at Gulfstream Park.

The 72nd running of the 1 1/8-mile Suwannee River for fillies and mares 4 and older on the grass was the co-headliner on a 12-race program along with the $100,000 El Prado for 4-year-olds and up sprinting 7 ½ furlongs over the turf course.

Valedictorian ($21.20), third choice at 9-1 in a field of seven, was able to set a moderate pace under jockey Tyler Gaffalione and keep her rivals at bay through the stretch to earn her 10th career victory in 1:50.12 over a firm turf course.

Favored at 1-5, multiple Grade 3 winner Rymska came late to be second, three-quarters of a length ahead of 20-1 long shot Peach of a Gal. Vagabond Princess, Special Event, American Frolic and Avie’s Mineshaft completed the order of finish. Conquest Hardcandy was scratched.

“I put her in front. Nobody went with me so I took a nice little hold. She relaxed and had her ears up the whole way,” Gaffalione said. “When I asked her to run, she really exploded. She had everything her own way today.”

Valedictorian went straight for the lead from Post 5 and galloped through an opening quarter-mile in 25.56 seconds pressed on her right hip by Peach of a Gal with Rymksa settled in third along the rail. Special Event made a bold move up the inside to move into second after a half in 51.88, with Rymka shuffled back to fifth and hemmed in by American Frolic on her outside.

Peach of a Gal remained the main challenger rounding the far turn after six furlongs in 1:16.64, but Valedictorian opened up once straightened for home and was never threatened in making her 1 1/8-mile grass debut, even as Rymska found room at the top of the stretch and was set down for a late run.

“She was sharp. I didn’t think she could get a mile and an eighth. Things worked out. The pace worked out. Tyler rode her great,” trainer Kelly Breen said. “[Rymska] is just a pretty, pretty filly. To see her in the paddock, she was just a classy, beautiful-looking horse. If we got a chance to scoot away from her at the top of the stretch, you don’t know how game plans are supposed to come to fruition but it worked out today. It was awesome.”

Valedictorian was making her third start of the 2018-19 Championship Meet and second this year, beaten 3 ½ lengths while third in the 1 1/16-mile My Charmer (G3) Jan. 12. She won the All Along Stakes in September at Laurel and the Jersey Girl Stakes last summer at Monmouth Park – the first two stakes wins for Epic Racing’s Harriet Sawyer.

“She’s gotten better. Even going into this race, she was sharp. To see a horse that’s been running once a month and stay this sharp is part of the reason why we ran in the race,” Breen said. “We were going to skip it … and Harriet saw how sharp she was. She came to the barn and saw her last workout and said, ‘Would you mind going for it?’ and we did it and here we are in the winner’s circle.”

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