Features

It was the day before the Travers, Bill Mott had one in the first, sixth, seventh, ninth and 11th and had something called the Red Jacket Ceremony that afternoon. Two horses waited to paddock school, a vet walked past to scope a horse, an exercise rider discussed a rank filly who’s getting better, a van agent organized a trip to Belmont, a van driver asked for a Coggins test and Elliott Walden called about a horse. Mott stood in his courtyard, directing it all. (Originally published in the Aug. 26 issue of The Saratoga Special.)

The Special’s Sean Clancy asked the question anyway.

“Want to do a Stable Tour?”

Mott paused and stared, you know the look, the one where you can’t decide if he’s aghast you asked or glad you asked.

With a full plate getting fuller, Mott agreed and walked toward the first stall of his main barn near the Oklahoma training track. The Hall of Famer stopped at each of his 30 stalls, unsnapping the screen, slowly pushing it open and analyzing another top-shelf Thoroughbred eating a late-morning snack.

With another 20 horses bedded down with his son Riley at the harness track, 44 with Leana Willaford at Belmont Park and another 20 with Kenny McCarthy at Churchill Downs, Mott could spend all day doing a Stable Tour. We only had an hour. Enjoy.

Vigor: The bay filly tried to pick grass while standing in the courtyard waiting to paddock school. Making her fourth career start and first since May, the daughter of War Front broke her maiden sprinting on the turf Aug. 14. Mott entered her right back, she’s in the seventh Monday. “I don’t want to wait three months again.”

Boule: Juddmonte Farm homebred filly by Exchange Rate is winless in three tries since making her debut at Keeneland in April. “She’s been on the grass three times, we’re going to try the dirt, I think she’s a little better than what she’s shown.”

Overture: WinStar Farm’s daughter of Congrats has yet to miss the board in six starts, clipping off two wins, two seconds and two thirds. “Won the Indiana Oaks and third in the Monmouth Oaks. Could go to Charles Town next time. She’s nominated to the Cotillion.”

Bernadiva: Owned by Jake Ballis, the 3-year-old daughter of Bernardini finished third in the Riskaverse Thursday. “Got a little black type, she broke her maiden at Gulfstream, won a non-two at Tampa and third in a stake at Saratoga, she’s coming around, we were pleased to get the black type.”

Long On Value: A graduate of the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2012 Eastern Yearling Sale, the son of Value Plus has done it all for Wachtel Stable, George Kerr and Gary Barber. The 6-year-old finished third in the Troy Aug. 6. “The world traveler. I said he was a $1,500 yearling and the guy corrected me and said he was a $3,000 yearling. We purchased him after he won a couple of races as a 2-year-old at some smaller tracks. He’s won races from 5 furlongs to a mile-and-an-eighth, he’s been a really neat horse, got beat a nose in Dubai. Took us to Royal Ascot, my first trip to Royal Ascot, we didn’t do any good there, but he was good enough to get us there.”

Fortune Cookie: A homebred for Irving Cowan, the son of City Zip made his debut at Belmont Park July 9, finishing fifth going 6 furlongs on the turf. “He’s in Saturday, going a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the turf. He’s been steady.”

Elate: Wow, what a summer she’s had. Owned and bred by Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider, the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro came around just in time. “Second in the Coaching Club, Alabama winner. ‘Get over grouchy, get over.’ She has plenty of substance. She looks good. To see them with their head in the feedtub…Neil (Poznansky) recalled that last June he breezed her 3 furlongs here and he said she might be the best horse he’d ever been on, of course, he’s been on some nice horses.”

Harkness: A daughter of Harlan’s Holiday, she joined Mott’s barn from Andrew McKeever this spring, racking up a fifth, fourth, eighth, second and then a win here earlier in the meet. “I tried to stretch her out, the previous trainer told me he felt she didn’t want to go too far. Naturally, I had to go against what he said and tried her at a mile-and-an-eighth, it didn’t work, so I shortened her up and she won. The previous trainer was right. She actually ran well. She runs on the dirt or the turf.”

Lieutenant Colonel: Mott adds blinkers for today’s fifth, an optional claimer on the turf. The 5-year-old son of Colonel John won three races while based in California. He’s made one start for Mott, fading to fifth in the slop here earlier in the meet. “Big gangly fellow. He’s a useful horse, he’s had a few miles on him.”

Good Samaritan: The Jim Dandy winner returns for the Travers today. Mott takes a long, slow look and asks the 3-year-old colt to move, ‘Get over, bud.’ He moves gently, stares at Mott. “He looked like he was one of the best turf 2-year-olds in the country and now, he looks like he’s maybe in the top group of dirt horses of his generation. We find out more with every race. Saturday is a big day.”

Covenant: WinStar Farm homebred drew off with ease to break her maiden here July 24. “She ran quite impressively. She was second to Salty in her first start, Salty ran her down in the end. She’s nominated to the Prioress, I’m not sure we’re going to run there, she’s a possibility.”

Macagone: Owned and bred by Trinity Farm, the New York-bred has banged out eight wins from 29 starts. The 6-year-old finished eighth in the West Point after a tough trip Friday. “He’s a nice hard-knocker, when he runs his race, he runs good.”

Richmond Street: Whoa, the 4-year-old colt stares Mott down like he trespassed on his lawn. Related to Zenyatta, he has her shoulder. He’s 6-1 in today’s second. “What do you think of him? In Saturday. He’s by Street Cry, Zenyatta’s family.”

Channel Maker: Ontario-bred 3-year-old son of English Channel has two wins from 10 starts. “Won the Breeders Stakes at Woodbine Sunday, he was fourth in the Queen’s Plate. He’s a possible for the race on October 7, the Hill Prince, maybe. That’s one possibility.”

Ballagh Rocks: Five-time winner doesn’t raise his head from his tub as Mott walks into his stall, ‘Oh, you’ve got all kinds of straw in your tail, you laid down and rolled…’ Owned by Donegal Racing, the son of Stormy Atlantic won three straight allowance races before trying stakes. “Won the Grade 3 Poker, third in the Grade 1 Fourstardave last time. He breezed this morning, could wait, might go back to the Shadwell, I like him at a mile, he closes well going a mile.”

Heavy Meddle: Chester and Mary Broman’s homebred has compiled two seconds at the meet. “He’s a big stout fellow, isn’t he? Broke his maiden at a mile on the turf but it looks like 6 furlongs on the dirt is his best.”

Cite: Third earlier in the meet, son of Blame is entered in a starter allowance Sunday. “Schooling.”

Hofburg: Unraced Juddmonte homebred has posted seven works at Saratoga. “This is a Tapit 2-year-old, he’s a half-brother to Emollient. He’s breezing well, he could run the last week of Saratoga. He’s got some talent. She broke her maiden on the dirt, won on the synthetic and the turf, she was a Grade 1 winner on the synthetic and the turf. He’s not a real bulky horse but he seems to handle the dirt, he gets over the ground beautifully.”

My Bronx Tail: Owned by Saratoga Seven Racing Partners, the bay filly finished sixth in her debut here Aug. 6. “Two-year-old Speightstown filly been out once, got some talent, she only got beat 3 lengths here the other day, she worked well this morning. We bought her privately down in Florida before she went to a 2-year-old sale.”

Length: Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider homebred finished ninth in her debut. “How’s she look? War Front filly, out of a mare I used to train named Extent. She can run, she was green, she didn’t do much as a 2-year-old, so she’s real green as a 3-year-old.”

Yoshida: Japanese-bred son of Heart’s Cry owns two wins and two seconds from five starts on the turf. “Just breezed, went in a minute and two fifths, out in 13 and change on the turf. Second in the Hall of Fame. He’s possible for the Saranac or the Super Derby.”

Flipcup: A stable stalwart, she’s won seven races from 31 starts, finishing third in the Yaddo Friday. “Hey, girl. A wonderful filly, a very good servant. She’s won and placed in stakes on the dirt, turf and synthetic. She’s really earned her way. She’s a New York-bred but Ontario-sired, some of her wins are restricted but she’s been a real, solid kind of horse to have in the barn.”

Hail: There’s nothing like a Juddmonte pedigree. “Tapit filly who’s a half to Lockdown and Close Hatches. She’s breezing a half mile, she won’t run here, I don’t think.”

Kasuga: The 5-year-old Ontario-bred mare has won six races and finished second in the Royal North at Woodbine in July. She occupies the first stall next to the tack room. “She’s the newest member of the stable, she’s an older mare, came from Canada, the owner sent her down because there would be more opportunities in the States, she won up there, a sprinter. I can’t take credit for the dapples, unless they came in the last four days.”

Forge: British-bred son of Dubawi won twice in England for Juddmonte. “He’s a Dubawi, he won in Kentucky, ran here the other day, he was fourth, I don’t know, he’s not had the best of trips a couple of times, the last time it was a slow pace and he’s last.”

Commend: Another winner at the meet, the 4-year-old handled allowance foes Aug. 16. “War Front, half to Congrats and Flatter. He may go to Kentucky Downs for a stake down there, he won his last out here, ran in a minute and change. Of course, I wasted a couple of races going a mile, I try to get them to go further than they want to go sometimes. That’s my natural tendency.”

Harmonize: Daughter of Scat Daddy made the cover of The Special back in 2015. “ ‘Hey, girl.’ Grade 1 winner, won the Del Mar Oaks last year. I’ve probably mismanaged her this year, or I feel like I have, because we haven’t had as good a year as we hoped. I’ve had it in my mind, she’s been good at a mile, but we might try to keep her at a mile-and-an-eighth. Early on, she looked like a mile was going to be her thing, I don’t know, sometimes horses change a little bit, she hasn’t had that explosive turn of foot that she showed early on. You know, we probably could have done things a little differently.”

Battlement: British-bred daughter of Dansili finished fourth here Aug. 14. “She’s eligible for a one-other-than here in New York, nice filly, ran her 5 1/2 the other day, it’s a little short, it looks like seven-eighths is a good trip for her, she was second at Belmont going 6. The first couple of times I ran her too far, again, I always try to run them a mile, mile-and-a-sixteenth, she’s a half to Suffused who’s won going a mile and 15/16ths, her sister won going 2 miles, it’s hard for me to think she’ll go half that far anyway. She works really good.”

Closing Bell: Veteran pulled up in the Bowling Green. Mott rips his name off the stall door. “Last but not least, he just went to the farm, he strained something up above the knee, in the carpal canal. He’s pretty sound. He’s going to the farm, to the salt-water spa, Give him 60 or 90 days, rather than short cycling him, you could inject it. Even if the ultrasound doesn’t show anything, he did strain something. He said he got bumped on the first turn, he must have torqued it or subluxated it. He should come back, given enough time.”

And one more…

Round: In the outside stall, the lead pony walks over and pushes his nose into Mott’s shoulder. “This is Round, the most important horse here. He was a New York winner, he was a sprinter, but he doesn’t feel that quick to me, he laid up close in his races. I’ve had some quick ponies, Solenzano was pretty fast. I had a horse, we called him Halfpint, he was by Green Desert, for an eighth of a mile, he was fast, I had a horse called Bell Boy, who was actually Ralph Nicks’ pony that I took away from him. They were the two fastest. For an eighth of a mile, if there was a loose one, smooch, and they were gone. Halfpint, he could run, he was a Thoroughbred, he never won, he showed speed and backed up, I guess. Mohammed Moubarak trained him, I don’t know what his name was. I’ve got a painting of him and another one of a pony I got from (Jack) Van Berg. You could show off on them, I picked up a lot of horses with them. Now, you’d have to think about it, ‘Do I really want to do this?’ Round is becoming a nice ride, last year he was spooky, but now he’ll lope, pony horses, he’s pretty good about it. He’s only 6, you don’t usually get ponies that young.”