angle-left Valiant Contender

Valiant Contender

Valiant Tiberias looks for a big win in the Adequan Derby Challenge.

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By Andrea Caudill

Valiant Tiberias has come a long way in one season.

This time last year, the Valiant Hero gelding was a maiden with three career starts, but beginning with his summer at Ruidoso Downs, he has come alive. On Saturday, he is set to contest the Adequan® Derby Challenge Championship (G3) at the Downs at Albuquerque. 

“He was a maiden, and a handful at that,” remembers trainer Ricardo Armendariz, saying at one time it would take 20 minutes to get the horse bridled. “I don’t know what it was, something clicked in his head, but he put everything together and the rest is history.”

The horse banged out four wins in a row, including winning the $116,840 Ruidoso Maiden Stakes (not an official stakes) and the Adequan® Ruidoso Derby Challenge. 

He then qualified to the $1.5 million All American Derby (G1) on Labor Day weekend and, his trainer says, “ran a heck of a race” despite a poor break and repeated bumping. He crossed the wire third, but was disqualified to eighth for interference. 

He has four wins and nine starts in his career, and earnings of $129,059.


“He’s been training really well, bounced back great,” Armendariz said. “He’s a big strong horse, and we’re expecting big things out of him.”

Sergio Holguin, Felix Rodriguez and Cliften Nielsen are partners on the horse.

Armendariz grew up in racing, and is childhood friends with Felix and Cliff. The partners met through work, and started racing a few years ago. 

“They’ve had horses here and there, and they’ve done really well with them,” he says. “They are good guys and they have a good eye.”  

Among their horses is Hot Authorization ($162,336), whom they raced and Armendariz trained to a runner-up placing in the 2018 Mesilla Valley Speed Handicap (G2). 

They acquired Valiant Tiberias in February. The horse was bred by Reliance Ranches LLC and is out of the Feature Mr Jess mare American Feature, a half-sister to champion and sire American Runaway ($686,355).

The connections are looking forward to seeing their horse run again. 

“He’s training good,” Armendariz said. “He’s all business. He takes care of business, he’s just a class act.” 

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