From dodging 270-pound defensive linemen to rooting home 114-pound jockeys, Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk has already found success as a thoroughbred racehorse owner and hopes to find his way into the winner’s circle again at Del Mar on Sunday.
Faulk, now a pro football analyst for the NFL Network after a successful playing career, is a partner in Team Valor International, one of the most successful horse racing partnerships. The group will send out the three-year-old colt Infinite Magic as one of the contenders in Sunday’s $250,000 Del Mar Derby (G2).
The timing of Sunday’s race is perfect for Faulk, who is about to get busy behind the camera as an analyst for NFL Total Access, Thursday Night Football and NFL GameDay Morning on the NFL Network.
Faulk played for the Indianapolis Colts and St. Louis Rams and is one of just three running backs to amass 10,000 rushing yards and 5,000 receiving yards. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011.
If Team Valor sounds familiar, it should. The partnership won the 2011 Kentucky Derby and the 2013 Dubai World Cup (G1) with Animal Kingdom.
Team Valor has had a roster of equine stars over the years that include Grade 1 winners Becrux, Cashier’s Dream, Ebony Flyer, Gitano Hernando, Golden Ballet, Ipi Tombi, Prized and Summer Soiree.
Among the human stars, Team Valor also has Olympian Michael Phelps and his coach Bob Bowman as partners. They are in a partnership that campaigns Cerro, who was briefly on the Triple Crown Trail last year and finished sixth in the Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park and fourth in the Lexington Stakes (G3) at Keeneland.
In his most recent start, Cerro was seventh in the Curlin Stakes at Saratoga on July 26.
Faulk joined the partnership with Infinite Magic, who was purchased and brought to the U.S. by founder and CEO Barry Irwin.
There are over 300 partners in various partnerships, but Phelps and Faulk are the only two sports stars.
“We do have a lot of high profile businessmen and three of the most celebrated, award winning motion picture producers in the world,” Irwin told Bleacher Report.
“Having celebrities as partners adds a layer of fun for the public and our racing partners, but to be perfectly frank, sometimes the actual partners in a horse with a celebrity tend to become a little edgy because the celebrity sometimes overshadows the horse and themselves,” Irwin added.
With a long-winded pedigree, the colt was purchased with the Belmont Stakes in mind. The colt won his U.S. debut, beating second-level allowance runners on turf at Keeneland in April, giving Faulk and his fellow partners an immediate return on their investment.
Next up was a prep for the Belmont in the Peter Pan Stakes (G2) at Belmont Park, but the colt did not handle the sloppy going and finished a distant ninth, beaten by 22 lengths.
The colt returned to turf in the Hill Prince (G3) at Belmont Park, where he finished a disappointing sixth.
The colt bounced back with his first stakes win in the U.S., taking the American Derby (G3) at Arlington Park in an upset at odds of 12-1. He beat a solid group that day, with the runner-up Admiral Kitten coming back to win the Secretariat (G1) at Arlington Park on Aug. 17 and fifth-place finisher Dorsett returning to win the Mystic Lake Derby in his next outing at Canterbury on Aug. 3.
On Sunday with new rider Joseph Talamo aboard, the colt will face nine rivals including the top two finishers of the La Jolla Handicap (G2)—Dice Flavor and Den’s Legacy, respectively—as well as Hill Prince runner-up Play It Loud, Arlington Classic (G3) victor General Election and Dorsett.
“Infinite Magic is one of the least expensive horses we have syndicated in the last couple of years, and I am very happy for our partners' good fortune,” said Irwin.