It’s been a long haul back for Yannick Valenti, but he hopes his first win as a trainer in Broome is redemptive and can help mend fractured relationships.
Valenti has a new outlook on life and is seeking acceptance from his racing peers once again after his world came tumbling down more than five years ago.
In a big fall from grace, the former jockey suffered the shame of being banned from racing for three years following a third drug offence in 2015.
With his future in racing hanging by a thread, Valenti was in danger of losing what he cherished most, but he vowed to fight back and restore his credibility.
After his ban ended he took an additional two years off to rebuild his physical and mental well-being, taking in a stretch with leading trainers Ciaron Maher and David Eustace to continue his rehabilitation.
Valenti chose his home base in Albany two years ago to launch his comeback, but made the transition to training when the curse of many jockeys, a weight battle, became a difficult burden to overcome.
When seven-year-old gelding In The Bag, ridden by Valenti’s partner, Jessica Gray, finished 3 ½ lengths clear of his nearest rival in Broome on June 4, an emotional Valenti said he felt a heavy burden had been lifted from his shoulders.
“Since training, I have found a new love for racing,” Valenti told The Races WA.
“Wasting being a jockey made it a bit of a chore.
“I had a lot of people doubting me when I was out, a lot of haters, obviously because I did wrong by a lot of people running amok.
“Once you get back on track it’s one thing, but to get that win makes me proud of my accomplishments a bit.
“I feel like I’ve been rewarded for all my efforts, getting healthy again and getting on the right track.
“Everyone in racing has been pretty good and it feels good, you can feel it.
“The older trainers who have been around a while, I feel like they are talking to me and connecting with me again.
“For a while it might not have been true, but it felt like I was on the outer and had to prove myself again.
“It feels like I’m accepted again and a bit more part of the family.”
Pride and the chance to right a few wrongs was the inspiration in driving Valenti to get his life back on track.
But as much as he had to look deep within and internalise his own private demons, he needed support.
Helping him to get there was his equine friend, In The Bag and long time supporter and mentor, trainer, Darryn Pateman.
“When I bought the horse I went halves with Darryn Pateman and used my winnings to set up my trainer’s license,” Valenti said.
“Last year in the Broome season he won a couple of races and placed seven out of nine.
“I was then able to buy Darryn out and do my own thing with him and go my own way.”
In The Bag went into his Broome encounter first up with no trial and took out the race with a fair amount of ease.
Valenti was super confident the son of Slater could win, but as race day drew closer, he succumbed to a bout of nerves.
“During the week I had a lot of confidence in the horse and I thought it was the perfect race,” Valenti said.
“He had fresh legs on a track that he loves and his work was exceptional.
“I couldn’t have been anymore confident in the horse, but come race day I was very nervous and the nerves took over.
“Jess (Gray) didn’t say much, it was hard to find the words; it was very emotional.
“One lot of words I got out of her was how much she loves the horse.
“It was a very numbing feeling and very special.”
In The Bag gave Valenti double cause for celebration. The gelding’s win in race five was his sixth success from 45 starts.
It arrived on the back of Valenti’s good mate Anthony Barton winning his first race as a trainer with Casino War in the opening race.
“Me and Anthony are very close,” Valenti said.
“I’m getting married at the end of the year and he is one of my groomsman.
“I don’t think it could have been any more special.
“For him to get a win as well I couldn’t be any prouder.”
Now that he’s had a taste of it, Valenti is desperate to experience that winning feeling again.
It’s also raised his ambitions on what might be on offer down the track for In The Bag.
Valenti is daring to dream big and has a couple of country and provincial races that are in his sights.
“At this stage we’ll head to a Derby Cup in a few weeks,” Valenti said.
“I don’t see why we wouldn’t head to a Broome Cup later on in the preparation.
“As long as he is happy and everyone is happy we’ll definitely head that way for sure.”