When it comes to searching far and wide around the globe for Thoroughbred talent, few owners have made names for themselves the way Team Valor CEO Barry Irwin has. Irwin’s recent international acquisition Love ‘n’ Happiness – a Group 1 winner in her native Brazil – will make her first American start in a Sunday allowance race over the turf at Arlington International Racecourse under current leading rider Jose Valdivia Jr.
The 4-year-old daughter of Setembro Chove (BRZ) started off her career on dirt in Brazil and scored her first victory in the Group 3 Emerald Hill on April 1, 2017. She then switched to turf for her next two starts – victories in the Group 3 Presidente Guilherme Ellis and the Group 1 Grande Premio Immensity last summer.
Love ‘n’ Happiness has yet to race in 2018 but has spent the past few months with trainer Ignacio Correas IV and has put together a series of works at his base at Keeneland, the most recent of which was a half-mile breeze in 47.60 on June 10.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had a horse that’s had a better foundation before she’s run (the first time in the United States),” Irwin said. “I think Ignacio expects her to run well. Whether she’ll win first out I don’t know, but I think it’s a good starting place for her. She’s got a lot of ability.”
This will also be the first Team Valor horse to race for Correas, who has been known for bringing South American imported Thoroughbreds to prominence.
“We’ve got about four with him right now and he hasn’t started one for us yet,” Irwin said. “He’s got a couple others that are related. He’s done a super job. We’ve been struggling to find people in America that can train South American horses. Neil Drysdale trains some of ours on the west coast and Ignacio is our go to on east coast.”
Team Valor has been met with modest success when purchasing horses from the Southern Hemisphere. The racing syndication purchased dual Group 1 winner Juno (BRZ), who also is by Setembro Chove, and has placed in three graded stakes events in California.
“The reason we bought [Love ‘n’ Happiness] is because we bought her close relative Juno,” Irwin said. “[Juno] was a champion down there and we brought her here. She hasn’t won a stakes yet but she placed in California. Love ‘n’ Happiness we bought from the same people. They race and breed under Chesapeake Stud.”
When Love ‘n’ Happiness was in South America, she was not exactly the easiest horse to work with, according to Irwin.
“She was very high strung,” Irwin said. “If you see races and photos of her, she’s as lathered up as much as a horse gets. We had her at the training center and the first day she dumped the rider and ran off. They’ve done a lot of work with her and she’s calmed down. If you leave her alone and let her relax she’s fine. But if you try to make her do something, you’re going to lose that fight.”
Love ‘n’ Happiness is up against a salty bunch in the Sunday allowance event, including graded stakes placed Lovely Loyree, Daddy’s Boo and In The Mood.
‘MAN AMONGST BOYS’ STRONG WILL MAKES CAREER DEBUT FOR RIVELLI
Trainer Larry Rivelli had previously expressed a great amount of confidence in his 2-year-old contingent and stated that he has quite the arsenal of young horses this summer. Perhaps the leader of Rivelli’s army of 2-year-olds runs this Sunday when Strong Will makes his career debut in the Sunday opener with Jose Valdivia, Jr. up.
Owned by Carolyn Wilson, Strong Will was purchased for $775,000 at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company’s Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale in March from Ciaran Dunne’s Wavertree Stables’ consignment operation. He was the third most expensive purchase at the sale and earned one of the fastest times, completing an eighth of a mile in 9.4 seconds.
“I think we outbid a couple big shooters for that horse; he’s the real deal,” Rivelli said. “He was a man amongst boys at the sale and so far hasn’t done a thing wrong. This is probably the biggest gun, we’ve got a couple more behind him, but he’s a special horse we’re thinking.”
Strong Will could also give freshman stallion Strong Mandate his first win as a sire. He is the first foal out of the dam Majestic Stinger who is by Majestic Warrior. Rivelli believes that this horse is on the right track for a solid performance on Sunday.
“In my operation, I don’t send them out if they aren’t ready to run,” Rivelli said. “If they’re in, they’re well meant, especially a horse this caliber. He hasn’t had a hiccup; he hasn’t had anything go wrong since we got him so all systems go.”