Graham Motion came out firing early at Saratoga, with four wins from his first 13 starts at the meet. Home base is Maryland’s Fair Hill Training Center, but he’s got 20 stalls on the Saratoga backside near the main track’s three-eighths pole. (Editor’s note: Originally published in Aug. 7 issue of The Saratoga Special.)
The Saratoga string can include a variety of horses, who shuttle – though not quite as frequently as they used to – between locations depending on the condition book.
“I keep them up here a little more now than I used to because we got more stalls,” he said. “It got to be a little crazy swapping them in and out. It was hard on the help and it just got to be a constant rotation. Now that we have 20 stalls we’re able to keep them up here. Some of the horses that benefit from being here will stay up here and not switch around so much. It’s a good situation for me to have horses here, especially with the 2-year-olds.”
Like any trainer, Motion likes winning at Saratoga though he understands how difficult that can be.
“You know that you’re up against it, you just hope your horses are good,” he said. “I think I point to it a little bit more than I used to, with some horses, but it’s still not like you come up here beating your chest because your horses are so good. It’s really nice to come up here and feel like you can compete.”
Motion has already won with a first-time starter, and has several more 2-year-olds to run.
“It always amuses me up here because everyone always asks, ‘Do you like your 2-year-old today?’ Well, you don’t run a 2-year-old at Saratoga if you don’t like it, so it’s kind of a dumb question to me,” he said. “Of course I liked her. Did I think she was going to come out and win first time? No, because I don’t think any of them are going to come out and win first time out. Everybody likes their 2-year-olds or they’re not here. That’s how deep the races are here.”
Motion won six races at Saratoga last year, and collected 11 in 2014.
“Normally five or six winners is what you hope to have for the meet so it’s encouraging, but you never know,” Motion said.
Late Friday morning, while watching a set train on the main track, Motion talked about the plans for some of his Saratoga string with The Special’s Joe Clancy.
Ravissante: The 2-year-old filly, a Flaxman Holdings homebred by Medaglia d’Oro, trained on the main track late Saturday morning and will point for a turf debut. Her half-brother, High Noon Rider won the Better Talk Now Stakes here last year for trainer George Weaver. “She is about two or three weeks away from a start on the grass. Flaxman is not in any hurry, but I’ve got two here for them and they’re going well.”
Soglio: Another Flaxman 2-year-old, the Scat Daddy colt worked a half-mile in :50.90 on the turf at Oklahoma Friday. He’s out of Sea Of Showers, a Seattle Slew mare who won a graded stakes for Bobby Frankel. “He’s a little further away (than Ravissante), but I hope to run him up here before the end of the meet too.”
Safe With Me: The Augustin Stable homebred juvenile, a filly by Discreetly Mine, paid $34.60 when she won her debut here July 27 and could come back for a stakes start. “We’ll nominate her to a stakes going 5 1/2 (furlongs) here or we could come for the P.G. Johnson, but that might be a stretch to run her long right now.”
Toshiro: Owned by West Point Thoroughbreds, the unraced 2-year-old First Samurai colt has a gate work scheduled for today. “The plan is to run him here, and he’s doing well, but a lot will depend on how he works out of the gate.”
Tale Of Life: Bred in Japan by Flaxman, the 4-year-old Deep Impact colt came off a short layoff to finish second behind favorite Watershed in a $90,000 allowance here July 25 and could come back in a similar race, or perhaps (just perhaps) the Woodward. “I kind of freshened him up and I thought that was one of his better races. He really had to dig in. Kiaran’s horse looked really good on paper beforehand and he ran like it. Two-other-thans up here are tough.”
Animal Instinct: West Point’s 4-year-old finished fourth in a 1 3/8-mile turf optional claimer Friday at 14-1 and could return to the program here. “He probably doesn’t have to go a mile-and-three-eighths, but that was a pretty game effort.”
Rachel Wall: The 4-year-old Blame filly finished second at 24-1 here Thursday, just getting caught in the final stags of an optional claimer going 1 3/8 on the turf. “She really benefited from the distance, ran really well. She was a huge price and coming off a second at Monmouth – that shows you how deep the races are up here.”
Ascend: First or second in all five starts this year, the Candy Ride 4-year-old gelding won an optional claimer here July 23 and could come back in a higher-level allowance or a stakes. “He’s a very consistent horse who hasn’t done much wrong, so he deserves a chance to step up.”
Ring Weekend: West Point’s turf star is at Fair Hill, but has a big date scheduled in the Grade 1 Fourstardave Aug. 13. In his 2016 debut, the 5-year-old finished second in the Grade 2 Dixie at Pimlico May 21. The Tapit gelding worked 6 furlongs on the Tapeta track at Fair Hill July 29 and again Friday.
Miss Temple City: Fourth (beaten a nose and two heads) in the Grade 1 Diana here July 23, the 4-year-old filly is aiming for the Ballston Spa on Travers Day, though Motion thought about an even bigger target. “I considered putting her in the Beverly D (at Arlington Park Aug. 13), but coming back in three weeks after shipping to England and back I didn’t think I should. But that’s how good she came out of the race. It was very frustrating not getting a bigger piece of (the Diana), as well as she ran. I feel bad for her, she’s finished fourth in her last two races that were very good races – a Grade 1 here and a Grade 2 at Royal Ascot.”
Real Smart: A graded stakes winner last month at Delaware Park, she finished off the board in Saturday’s Waya. “I like her a lot. It’s a little bit crazy that every time I’ve run her I’ve run her a different distance (from 9 to 12 furlongs in four starts), but she runs as well as she can every time. I think she’s pretty adaptable, obviously. (The Waya) will tell us a lot about her, about where we go the rest of the year.”
Tiz A Chance: Perfect in two starts this year, the 4-year-old New York-bred runs in Monday’s seventh race (a state-bred optional claimer on the turf) for Augustin. “He steps up, but I’d like to think he’d be competitive.”
Miss Ella: Owner/breeder Jack Swain’s 4-year-old filly splashed home in the off-the-turf Caress Stakes at 5 1/2 furlongs here July 31. She’s a Grade 2 winner on the dirt, but stakes-placed on the turf. “She ran huge. She could come back in a (turf sprint) stakes here or could go to Presque Isle for the Masters. The way she ran the other day it seemed like she was back to her old form. Her mother (Sweet Tune) was a two-turn grass horse and the daughter is winning five-eighths on the dirt. It’s a little bit confusing to be honest.”
Irish Fix: The 2-year-old daughter of Paddy O’Prado has worked twice here – once on the grass (:50.32 for a half-mile) and on the main track from the gate (1:01.88 for 5 furlongs). She’s being pointed for a maiden filly sprint on the grass. “She’s a New Jersey-bred, but she’s handled the grass quite well and I’m going to give her a chance up here.”
Sherini: My Meadowview Farm’s 3-year-old filly – a half-sister to Shackleford by Bernardini – makes her turf debut in Wednesday’s fourth race. She’s worked on the turf at Fair Hill and comes off a third at Pimlico. Motion also has her sister, a 2-year-old daughter of Frankel, at Fair Hill.
Tin Type Gal: The 3-year-old filly scratched from the Lake George here Opening Day, but went to Monmouth Park instead and won the Grade 3 Boiling Springs the next day. “She could come up for the Lake Placid (Aug. 21). She had a bad post and a high weight in the race here. She was coming off a somewhat disappointing race at Belmont and I didn’t want to run the risk of running her here with a bad post and a high weight. We took the conservative route and it paid off.”