Trainer Richard Hobson has vowed to retire Valadom on the spot if he can secure victory in the Unibet Veterans Handicap Chase at Sandown Park tomorrow (Saturday 8th January).
The Gloucestershire trainer has confirmed he will bring the curtain down on the evergreen 13 year old’s career should he strike gold in the three mile prize, which is the final of the 2021 Veterans Chase Series.
Valadom only visited Sandown Park for the first time on his most recent start last month, when finishing third in an amateur riders’ handicap on day one of the Betfair Tingle Creek Festival, for which he was dropped 2lbs by the handicapper.
With conditional jockey Lilly Pinchin removing a further 5lbs of weight from Valadom’s back and ground conditions set to suit, Hobson believes it makes his bold jumping grey a leading contender on what could be the 57th and final start of his career.
Hobson explained: "We’ve had him since a three year old and he has just done us really proud over the years. He has his own way of going about things but he has been very consistent and has been a bit of a stable star.
“As a result of his run last time, the handicapper has dropped him 2lbs and we are taking a further a five off his back (with Lilly Pinchin riding). He could be very dangerous, as I can’t remember the last time he carried 10st.
“I’m excited about the fact that the ground is not going to be bottomless, which it can be at this time of year. He doesn’t really like it if it is too holding or tacky. I think off that weight he has a good chance.
“If he does win on Saturday he will retire and I stand by that as he has done enough for us. I said the same about a horse I use to have called Sambulando that if he won on this specific day at Uttoxeter when he was 12 I would retire him - and we did exactly that after he won.”
Reflecting on Valadom’s previous outing, Hobson is of the opinion that the result could have been even better had he not made a mid-race mistake on his belated debut at the track.
He said: “He was ridden by a very inexperienced rider last time and he went into the ditch down the back five lengths clear and came out of it two lengths down. He still finished third but had he not made that mistake he would have probably gone a lot closer.
“I’ve been getting a bit of grief for not running him around Sandown sooner as the track suits him. I always felt that he is better left-handed and that is one of the reasons we hadn’t gone there before. He seemed to handle it okay last time.
“He was a little bit left-handed at the downhill fence, the first down the back straight, but after that he pretty much jumped like a buck.”
Should retirement for Valadom start this weekend, Hobson will ensure he is kept busy at home.
He added: “We’ve got a few other veterans like Chic Name coming through that we have got to get on with but Valadom isn’t the sort of horse that will be happy just being turned out in a field when he retires. He is just as enthusiastic up the gallops like when he was four so he will be a good lead horse.
“Going into Saturday’s race he is very well and in great order. We haven't run him as often as we used to now that he is that bit older, but he has not lost any of his enthusiasm.”
Valadom might not have reached the same heights as the likes of stablemate Lord Du Mesnil, but Hobson, who also works as a bloodstock agent, believes the gamble to bring him over to England to train the popular gelding himself has been worthwhile.
He added: “I originally brought Valadom with a similar profile to the bumper runners we sell on from France. He won a little chase at Lyon Parilly for me and I thought he is not a sales horse as he was a bit more exposed.
“The French trainer who had him said he was no good and that I should just give him away as a hunter. I said, ‘surely as I own the horse it is my decision’ so I brought him over to England and I’ve never looked back.
“He bolted up at Worcester on his second start, then won a nice class two race at Bangor the next season. If it wasn’t for his wind which he struggled with I believe he would have been a 150-rated horse.”
The spirit of Valadom could still live on at the racetrack after Hobson decided to purchase his younger half-brother for his partner Shirley Becker, who he hopes to marry this year.
He added: “Valadom is actually owned by my partner Shirley. We’ve been together seven years and have 20 month old twins and a five year old, going on 13!
“As we didn’t get married last year because of Covid-19 as a present I bought her Valadom’s two year old half-brother called Kalandrion, who is by Petillo.
“We got engaged a few years ago after Dame Rose won the Aintree bumper for us but hopefully we can get married this year.”
While this weekend could mark the final chapter in the career of Valadom the victory would be the perfect tonic for 22 year old rider Pinchin, who will start in her new role working for Hobson and his team on Monday.
Hobson concluded: “Lilly starts with us on Monday so a win here would be the perfect way to fire her up for the new job. She has joined us on the basis that she can have that bit of leeway to go out and try and make a few new contacts.
“Valadom can make the odd mistake with an inexperienced rider but Lilly schooled him on Wednesday and they got on well and that's important. It would be a great story all round if he does win.”