Barry Irwin saw first-hand the positive impact life at tranquil Fair Hill Training Center in Fair Hill, Maryland had on Team Valor International’s Gypsy’s Warning (SAf) and Daveron (Ger).
Irwin, co-founder and chief executive officer of Team Valor, also wanted to consolidate his stable with one trainer. He thought he foundthe perfect match in Graham Motion, who already was handling the aforementioned females at his Fair Hill base.
Before he could set the plan in motion, however, he needed to convince the trainer that this was the right move for both of them.
Irwin said Motion initially was not interested in becoming a private trainer when he approached him in late spring, but Irwin continued to explore the Fair Hill option and moved ahead with negotiations to purchasea barn at the 350-acre training center.
Irwin and Team Valor embarked upon the interview process with trainers but came up empty. He decided to pitch the idea to Motion again in the fall.
“We weren’t really willing at that point to take on a guy with a learning curve,” Irwin said. “The beautiful thing about Graham is that not only is he a hell of a trainer, but he’s there, he’s been there… he wouldn’t have to learn anything.
“Late in the fall, I went back to him and asked if he had thought about what I had mentioned earlier, and this time he was receptive.”
Team Valor announced on November 12 the partnership with Motion, saying it gradually will shift all of its U.S.-based horses to him.
Irwin’s new Fair Hill barn is very close to Motion’s and, in fact, it isa barn he often has used when his stable swells beyond capacity. Irwin said his new barn holds 40 horses, and both he and Motion expect the transition to be a smooth one.
“I’m a very decisive guy, he’s more of a deliberate guy, so I think between the two of us we can come to some good decisions,” said Irwin, who bought out partner and longtime friend Jeff Siegel in 2007 and renamed the stable Team Valor International. “He’s not a private trainer, but he’s going to be the only one training our horses.
“Most trainers don’t really want to train for a person like me and the reason is because everybody knows I’m ahands-on guy. … No matter how their horses run, they think that the perception is going to be that they’re just a puppet and I’m pulling all of the strings. He knows the reality is that I like to be involved but I don’t dictate. He’s got a strong enough sense about himself that he doesn’t let that get in the way.”
One of the first arrivals was Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G2) victor Pluck, who will be given a respite before Irwin and Motion map out a game plan for the spring with either the Irish Two Thousand Guineas (Ire-G1) on the Poule d’Essai des Poulains (Fr-G1) (French Two ThousandGuineas) as the target.
“We certainly traveled with [2004 Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) winner] Better Talk Now, but to take a horse to Europe to compete in one of their classics is something I’ve always wanted to do,” Motion said.
The laid-back setting at Fair Hill, which has miles of trails, fieldsfor long jogs and gallops, and a synthetic Tapeta Footings training surface as well as turf and dirt tracks, had a significant impact on Gypsy’s Warning, who won her first start for Motion in the Eatontown Handicap (G3) in May and wonthe Matriarch Stakes (G1) on November26 at Hollywood Park.
“We sent [Motion] two horses—Gypsy’s Warning and Daveron; both of them had exhibited problems with temperament—and since they joined him and have trained up there, both of them have won stakes and they’ve proved themselves to be good horses,”Irwin said. “And I feel almost positive—I don’t care who would have trained them at the racetrack—thereis no way they could have run as well as they have under these circumstances.”—Mike Curry