The tale of a reluctant trotter
They're an unusual combo - an unraced Peak six-year-old who had no interest in being a racehorse and Anthony Slaney, a 24-year-old electrician from Cambridge.
But recently they combined to be the best performers in the Standardbred team that took on the Thoroughbreds in the Battle of the Breeds at Cambridge Raceway.
"I was really proud of him - we got two thirds and a fourth so took out best standardbred overall."
Originally destined for the racetrack things did not go well for Valhall (Peak - Chiola Closeup).
"He was always naughty in the cart," says Slaney.
In those days the young trotter was with Cambridge trainer Ross Paynter, Slaney's second cousin - "I used to be Ross's shadow for about 10 years, which I really enjoyed and learnt a lot".
Slaney started out in Kidz Kartz. He also drove at the workouts, and was involved with a few horses, including five-race winner Lis Rulz, that Paynter trained.
Valhall was unraced, with Slaney acquiring him in 2020. He was re-educated under saddle by Anthony and the pair have since formed a good bond.
"He's a bit of character," Slaney says of Valhall (known simply as Grey Boy at home), "He loves his food and a good scratch and chases his mates round the paddock every morning!"
(photos courtesy of Angelique Bridson)
Out of the blue Slaney got a SOS to be a late replacement for last month's Battle of the Breeds, after an original Standardbred had to be withdrawn.
"We have only done some low level dressage so far, where he's won every time out, and he is in work for the upcoming hunt season anyway, but we hadn't been to a show since late last year so it was a big step up for him. I was really pleased with how he handled the atmosphere and the crowds."
The Battle of the Breeds featured three Standardbreds and three Thoroughbreds competing in three disciplines - the in-hand show, followed by a ridden class on the flat and then a jumping challenge, with the Thoroughbreds coming out on top overall.
"The quality of the Standardbreds was pretty good, though we struggled a bit in the jumping phase."
Slaney has plans to "do a few more shows next summer and maybe even take him eventing, alongside my other horse who's already competing at 1*"
He reckons Valhall will only get better.
"He's taken so long to develop and he's getting stronger and really starting to strengthen up."
"He's enjoying his new life and I'm excited for his future."