Team Valor announced Friday that its successful partnership with trainer Graham Motion would be coming to an end, with former Godolphin assistant Rick Mettee taking over as the ownership group's private trainer effective May 1.
However, before the pairing that gave racing Animal Kingdom goes their separate ways, a farewell tour will play out — starting with Saturday's Grade I Central Bank Ashland Stakes at Keeneland.
Motion, who became the private trainer for Team Valor at the end of 2010, will saddle 4-1 morning-line favorite Tuttipaesi for the Valor Ladies' partnership in Saturday's $500,000 Ashland in what will be the third North American start for the 3-year-old filly.
Team Valor's aim to have a single private trainer and Motion's desire to keep other clients was cited as the key reason the two will part ways.
Fittingly, Motion has another Ashland entrant in graded stakes winner Kitten's Point, whom he conditions for George Strawbridge's Augustin Stable.
"We've got some exciting horses to run here," Motion said at Keeneland on Friday. "We're going to do our best for Team Valor. I'm just very grateful for the two years I've had. It's been two years I wouldn't trade for anything."
Kitten's Point got the best of her stablemate to earn her first graded win last time out, taking the Herecomesthebride Stakes over 11⁄8 miles on the turf at Gulfstream on March 2 with Tuttipaesi weakening to third.
The cutback to the Ashland's 11⁄16 miles should help Tuttipaesi, who rallied from well back to win over that distance in the Ginger Brew Stakes on the Gulfstream turf on Jan. 1.
Among the strongest threats to Motion's pair in the 14-horse Ashland field is trainer Mark Casse's duo of Grade I winner Spring in the Air and Spring Venture.
Spring in the Air won the Grade I Darley Alcibiades at Keeneland last October but has lost to Spring Venture in each of their two meetings.
Central Bank Ashland
When: 5:13 p.m. Saturday
Distance: 11⁄16 miles Grade: I
Purse: $500,000 TV: TVG
For: 3-year-old fillies
Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676. Blog: horseracing.bloginky.com. Twitter: @horseracinghl.