Wise looking for Valiant effort in Grafton qualifier

The Steve Wise-trained Valiant. Photo Gold Coast Turf Club.

It’s been a journey three years in the making, but Steve Wise and connections will finally watch star galloper Valiant contest the Country Championships, with the I Am Invincible gelding taking on Saturday’s Northern Rivers Racing Association qualifier at Grafton.

Following back-to-back wins at the Gold Coast and Lismore in late 2020, the lightly raced six-year-old was installed as one of the favourites to win the 2021 Country Champs. 

Unfortunately, injury set-backs got in the way of Wise’s plans, with Valiant off the scene for more than a year. 

“I was going to set him for the Country Championships last year, but about three weeks out he had a little slip in his box and then he had a tear in his chest muscle, and it blew up and he had a hematoma, and it took a while to get it under control,” Wise said. 

“We didn’t rush the horse and gave him three months off, and we slowly brought him back but then he had a couple of abscesses on his hoof, which came one after the after, and it took us about nine months to get him back.

“There was nothing major, but a succession of a few minor issues just kept holding us back, but we have taken our time and now we have him right.”

After his 53-week spell, Valiant returned to racing, finishing ninth at Doomben, fifth at Eagle Farm and Fifth at Royal Randwick, with Wise explaining there were a few excuses. 

“We were going to set him for The Kosciuszko, but we were unsuccessful with that, and then we took him to Brisbane two times, and he suffered heat stroke on those occasions, and those runs didn’t represent his true ability,” Wise said.

“Then in Sydney, he was on a heavy track; he drew the outside gate, and he was completely trapped out wide the whole journey and it was a huge effort to finish as close as he did.”

Since his last start at Randwick, Valiant has been freshened and Wise believes he is going as good as ever ahead of tomorrow’s Grafton qualifier. 

“I think personally; I’ve got him in as good shape as I’ve ever had him,” Wise said. 

“He is an x-factor horse, but he has just never had the opportunity to show it. 

“We haven’t had a full campaign from him to show what he is capable of but he will get his chance now.”

Valiant is currently rated a $34 chance with bookmakers, and Wise hopes to be smiling all the way to the bank.

“I couldn’t believe his price when i saw it, but I’m happy,” Wise laughed. 

“I do think he can win it; as long as he gets the right run, he should be right in the race.

“First-up over 1400m is the only concern. If it was 1200m, I’d mortgage the kidney on it, but I’m confident he will have enough in the tank to get it done.”

Matthew Palmer takes the ride for the Murwillumbah stable and from gate one, Wise hopes his galloper gets one last shot at them on the long Grafton straight. 

“Matthew Palmy knows him well and that will put us in good stead,” Wise said. 

“The inside gate is a huge positive for him. Matty will let him jump at his own leisure and ideally, I’d like to see him two or three back the fence. 

“He has a very good turn of foot, and if he is two or three back, ideally he will get a good go at them.”

Regardless of Saturday’s result, Wise said getting Valiant to the Country Championships qualifier will be an achievement for his team and connections. 

“It has been a huge journey with this horse,” Wise said.

“We have had him three years and had five starts; it’s a huge effort for us just to be there.”

Valiant’s story is just one of many with owners far and wide dreaming of Country Championships riches at Grafton on Saturday and Nowra on Sunday.

Readers can click here for full Country Championships fields at Grafton.