Team Valor CEO Barry Irwin is anxious to showcase the talent of Va Bank (IRE) in a meaningful race in the United States, which is one reason why he is opting to run the 2015 Polish Triple Crown winner in the Grade I $1,000,000 Arlington Million on August 11.
The 6-year-old son of Archipenko began his career in Poland for former conditioner Maciej Janikowski and owner Janusz Zeinkiewicz where he won his first 12 career starts, including a sweep of the Polish Triple Crown, which consists of the Polish Derby, the Polish St. Leger and the Warsawska. He was the 15th Thoroughbred to sweep the trio of Polish classics and also was the first non-Polish bred horse to win all three races.
Following a win in the Group 3 Sparkassen at Baden-Baden in Germany, Va Bank's twelfth consecutive victory, Irwin purchased a 50% interest in the horse. He has raced four times since, most recently finishing second in a Group 2 event at Baden-Baden when debuting for trainer Andreas Wohler.
“He's an amazing horse,” Irwin said. “If he had a good and normal trainer that had been in a normal place he would've been a legitimate European champion. He's that good. But the place he trained over was just brutal, so we moved him. We sent him to Dubai (this year) and he twisted an ankle, but they got him back sound. He ran well a couple weeks ago at a mile which is not his distance.”
Should Va Bank continue to train well and stay in top form, he will likely make one more start at Hamburg before the Arlington Million.
“He's going to run July 5 at Hamburg in a Group 3 and if he runs well in that he'll go to the Million,” Irwin said. “He's the best horse they've ever had in Poland. He beat a really good horse named Potemkin who won a Group II at Longchamp. If he gets through his next race, he'll come to the Million with a chance to do something. Andreas Wohler won the Melbourne Cup; he's trained some terrific horses.”
Irwin is no stranger to Arlington Million success – he owned Star of Cozzene who captured the 1993 edition of the Million. Wohler also has won the Million when he saddled Silvano (GER) in 2001.
Irwin went on to mention other possible starters on Arlington Million Day, including multiple graded stakes placed Responsibleforlove (IRE), who is a ‘viable option' for the Grade I $600,000 Beverly D. Stakes, but first will point to the Grade II $100,000 Modesty Handicap. She is trained by Neil Drysdale.
“She's run some really good races and is very consistent,” Irwin said. “She's just missed top company, but she won a listed race (CTT and TOC Handicap at Del Mar in August 2017). On her day she can run with the top fillies. I don't know if she can win a Grade I but she's competitive at that level. We bought her from Italy. She's a nice horse that just finds a way to lose the big ones. She just needs to have luck.”
In addition, Irwin discussed the possibility of Capla Temptress (IRE) starting in the Beverly D. Handicap. One might remember the daughter of Lope De Vega (IRE) from last year's Grade I Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, where she finished seventh. Irwin pointed out that for the time being, Capla Temptress would either point to the Grade I $1,000,000 Belmont Oaks Invitational on July 7 or the Group I $675,000 Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot. According to Irwin, should she opt for the former of the two spots, she will likely not race in the Beverly D.
He also plans on racing Group III winner Kingstar (FR) in the Grade I $1,200,000 Belmont Derby Invitational. Irwin stated that while he is a possibility for the Grade I $400,000 Secretariat Stakes, he could also be a Million contender for next year.
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