Team Valor International has hired Rick Mettee to train all of its North American-based race horses effective May 1, taking over private training duties from Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Graham Motion.
Motion became the private trainer for Team Valor at the end of 2010 and went on to condition eventual champion and 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom for the operation. Motion most recently saddled Animal Kingdom to a two-length triumph in the $10 million Dubai World Cup – the first American-based horse to win the world’s richest race since 2009 – but a release from Team Valor stated Motion’s desire to maintain other clients contributed to the decision to hire Mettee.
“Graham Motion trained Team Valor’s horses privately from our barn at Fair Hill Training Center as an accommodation to us. But he made it clear that he would continue to train for other owners. We understood this and accepted his conditions,” Team Valor founder Barry Irwin said in the release. “However, due to the unique type of operation we run with partnership-owned horses, we feel at this time it would serve our needs better to have one trainer that was exclusive to our stable.
“Graham agrees. He has offered to continue to train our horses through the month of April until our new trainer has set up his operation.”
Motion, who also conditions horses for the likes of the Niarchos family and George Strawbridge, will continue to train Animal Kingdom, who is expected to make his final start in June at the Royal Ascot meeting in either the Group I Queen Anne Stakes or the Group I Prince of Wales’s Stakes.
When reached at Keeneland Friday, Motion said “It was always set up as a situation I could walk away from and that is what I have chose to do. I’ll leave it at that. Barry is looking for a private trainer and Rick is going to be the perfect man for that.
“I’m just grateful for the last couple years I’ve had,” Motion continued. “It’s been two years I wouldn’t trade for anything. It doesn’t get any higher than winning the Kentucky Derby and Dubai World Cup.”
In addition to the World Cup, Motion won the Grade I Del Mar Oaks with Summer Soiree and the Grade I Matriarch Stakes with Gypsy’s Warning for Team Valor.
Mettee’s last job was as an assistant trainer to Saeed bin Suroor, running Godolphin’s U.S. division for the Dubai royal family. In the 1990s, Mettee trained horses for Barry Irwin’s partnerships. With horses trained mainly by Mettee, Godolphin won the 2009 Eclipse Award as outstanding owner.
“Rick has experience training horses on synthetic and dirt surfaces in America and in Dubai,” Irwin said. “He did exceptional work while winning several Grade 1 races with the Godolphin runners. We are looking forward to renewing our relationship with him.”
Mettee will operate primarily out of Team Valor’s barn at Fair Hill in Elkton, Maryland. He is a native of Maryland and first rose to prominence as an assistant to trainer John Gosden in Southern California in the 1980s. Gosden recommended Mettee for the job with Godolphin. In five seasons, Mettee oversaw the U.S. roster that won such prestigious races as the Matriarch, Forego, Cigar Mile, Vosburgh, Coaching Club American Oaks and two straight editions of the Beldame.