With heavily favored River Boyne bottled up late, longshot True Valour rallied from off the pace to take Saturday's Grade III, $100,000 Thunder Road Stakes by a half length while providing trainer Simon Callaghan with his second stakes win on the day and Italian-born Andrea Atzeni, 27, with his first ever Santa Anita stakes victory. A 5-year-old Irish-bred horse, True Valor got a flat mile over a “good” turf in 1:36.35.
“The win was always going to happen, these things just take time,” said Atzeni, who is taking a break from riding in the U.K. during their slower months to experience racing in the U.S. “I'm having a great time here in America. I was going to go back three weeks ago, but I changed my flight to the end of February. This is a good place to be, keeping myself fit with the rides and the people have all been really great to me. Hopefully, I come back here.”
A close fifth and on the move around the far turn, True Valour wheeled three-wide turning for home and ran down Ohio and Le Ken late to post his first win in four stateside starts. Most recently a close third in a one mile turf classified allowance here on Jan. 13, True Valor was off at 11-1 in a field of six older horses and paid $25.00, $10.00 and $9.20.
“We knew there wasn't probably not going to be that much speed on,” Callaghan said, “but we had to stick to the plan take our time get him to relax and I just said to Andrea I prefer you to come in late than too early and we held Flavien in in a crucial time and he rode an absolutely perfect race.”
Owned by Qatar Racing, Ltd., True Valour, a Group III winner going seven furlongs on turf four starts back in his native Ireland, improved his overall mark to 18-4-2-6. With the winner's share of $60,000, he increased his earnings to $235,112.
Fresh off a minor stakes victory going one mile on turf at Turf Paradise Jan. 12, Brazilian-bred Ohio, ever game at age eight, finished a neck in front of Le Ken and paid $6.80 and $6.20 while off at 6-1 with Ruben Fuentes up.
Argentine-bred Le Ken, who defeated the winner by a half length when second in a classified allowance on Jan. 13, was off at 22-1 with Tyler Baze and paid $9.20 to show while finishing a half length in front of River Boyne, who was full of run when he steadied a sixteenth of a mile out.
Fractions on the race were 23.94, 48.52, 1:12.89 and 1:24.66.
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