Valdez, a Salt Lake City resident, bought Chips All In on the advice of long-time friend John Brocklebank.
A world-renowned thoroughbred talent scout, Brocklebank is a former scholarship football player at University of Utah.
"John pointed him out and said, 'This is one you should get. He's a runner. He's fast,'" Valdez said. "I looked at John and said, 'Really? You think he's fast?'"
Yes, Chips All In is fast.
The four-year-old colt has won seven times in a 16-race career and earned $410,000. His next outing comes Saturday, when he runs in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint at Santa Anita.
Now owned by Valdez and four partners from Salt Lake John O'Brien, Michelle Turpin, Jean Everest and Julie Crandall Chips All In is one of the favorites in the Turf Sprint.
Trained by Utah native Jeff Mullins, Chips All In will break from the No. 3 post in the 14-horse field and be ridden by jockey Julien Leparoux.
The journey to the Breeders' Cup has been "a great ride" for Valdez who, at first, could not find partners willing to invest in his diminutive horse.
After Chips All In won the $100,000 Gold Rush Futurity at Arapahoe Park near Denver in 2011, however, the horse became a hot property.
"The way he ran in Denver," Valdez said, "was a big shot in the arm."
When Chips All In returned to California, he was sent to Mullins. He was trained early in his career by Adam Kitchingman.
"Adam didn't do anything wrong," Valdez said. "I'm just a big Jeff Mullins fan."
In his next race, Chips All In ran on grass for the first time and won the $75,000 Eddie Logan Stakes. Valdez and the other owners started dreaming of the Kentucky Derby, but that ended when their horse ran sixth on the dirt in the Robert Lewis Stakes.
The winner, I'll Have Another, eventually captured the 2012 Derby.
"We thought we had a chance against a good bunch of horses," Valdez said. "But he didn't break well, got carried wide through the first turn and our jockey wrapped up on him to prevent injury."
After the Robert Lewis, Chips All In returned to turf racing, where he has developed into one of the best horses in the country.
"We haven't over-run him this year," Valdez said. "Jeff has done a great job that way."
Chips All In was not originally nominated for the Breeders' Cup, so the five owners had to supplement him into the Turf Sprint for $100,000.
"We talked to each other, back and forth," Valdez said.
"At first, we weren't going to do it. It was just too much money. But then we changed our mind. The consensus was, 'How many chances do you get a chance to win a Breeders' Cup race?'"
The owners sought the opinion of Mullins.
"Jeff didn't say he'd win," Valdez said. "He just said, 'He's a good horse. You have a shot.' For Jeff, that's a volume of words."
Other top contenders in the Turf Sprint are Mizdirection and Reneesgotzip, who finished 1-3 last year.
"This race is really tough," Valdez said. "It's like looking at the Miss America pageant. Every one of them is a beauty, from 1 to 14. [But] our horse has heart."
O At San Anita (Arcadia, Calif.)
When • Friday and Saturday
TV • NBC, NBCS
What • 14 races, $25 million in purses
Utah connection • Chips All In, owned by five Salt Lake City residents, runs in the $1 million Turf Sprint on Saturday.