As will be the case on Sunday, the
‘Battle of the Sexes’ was the fourth race on a 10-race card with win-only
wagering offered. As will be the case on Sunday, things got real when the gates
A blind draw had given the
assignment on Summer Mayberry-trained Chester’s Choice to Valenzuela and Bob
Baffert-conditioned Woke Up Dreamin to Krone.
“It was a lot of pressure at the
time because I thought Julie was on the best horse,” Valenzuela said recently
during a break between riding morning workouts.
“I knew I had to change up something
to get my horse to perform, so I asked Summer to put some speed (workouts) in
him. Because match races are won by speed and because he was a mid-pack route
horse and the horse that Bob trained was a sprinter.
“Summer put some more speed into the
horse and I thought she did a great job training him up to the race.”
Valenzuela, an acknowledged
world-class talent at getting horses out of the gate, urged Chester’s Choice
from the start from the inside post position and, as he hoped, was on even
terms with Krone and Woke Up Dreamin until there was less than a half mile to
go in the 1 1/16-mile event.
“At the three-eighths pole, Julie
starts to get an advantage on me,” Valenzuela recalled. “And when she does, she
tries to shave me (encroach on space to intimidate the rival horse) a little
bit. I yelled at her, you can see it on the replay. But she opened up about two
or two-and-a-half lengths on me.
“My horse didn’t really hit another
gear, but her horse started getting tired, and I got my horse to finish all he
could and got up right at the wire. It was just an amazing race.
“I really thought turning into the
stretch that she was going to beat me, but I couldn’t give up. I thought if I
come back to that jocks room (after a loss) I’m going to get so much ribbing
and I’ll never hear the end of it. So I had to win the race.”
Krone’s memories of the race don’t
completely coincide with Valenzuela’s. But the fact remains that it was the
closest match race finish at Del Mar since Seabiscuit bested Ligaroti in 1938.
I had it to do over, I’d do what I always tried to do and that would be to have
a little more horse left over at the end,” Krone said. “But hopefully, again
this time the horses will be well matched, it will be nice and safe, and there
will be an element of fun for everybody. Because that’s what it’s all about. “
Regarding their rooting interest in
Sunday’s race, Krone and Valenzuela are in agreement.
“I like Mike Smith’s chances,”
Valenzuela said, “I have to support the gender.”
“From one standpoint, I have to
support the gender,” Krone said. “But Mike Smith is an old friend. And
friendship trumps gender.”