Bill Mott grinned the way only Bill Mott can grin walking toward one of the flat screen TVs near the paddock Saturday at Gulfstream Park. You know the look, if you’ve ever interviewed him, the sort of, “I’d answer your question if it were a better question,” or better yet, “I’ll let you know what I want you to know and probably nothing more.”
Never malicious and always a bit shrewd and calculated, Mott gives what he wants. After watching Hidden Scroll make a dozen other 3-year-old maidens look very ordinary, Mott stated the obvious with that grin.
“Well, we know he handles the slop anyway,” he said. “We got that part out of the way.”
Hidden Scroll handled the slop, the 1-hole and his rivals about as well as an unraced maiden can. Juddmonte Farm’s homebred son of Hard Spun won the fourth race on Saturday’s Pegasus World Cup card, a 1-mile maiden special weight worth $60,000, and undoubtedly added his name to many “Kentucky Derby Watch” lists in the process. He won by 14 lengths in 1:34.84 after racing for the most part on the lead through splits of :22.53, :44.75, 1:09.43 and 1:21.95.
He also caught the eye of several of Mott’s colleagues, who stopped to offer congratulations while he watched the replay.
“Very, very sneaky,” said Joe Orseno, who sent out seventh-place finisher Lahinch.
“Good horse, very good horse,” said Gustavo Delgado, trainer of the fourth-place Bodexpress.
Chuck Simon went a step further, digging deep into the recesses of his memory to another powerful first-out winner for Mott.
“You know who he looked like? Elusive Quality,” Simon said. “I was at Belmont that day. It was a rainy, nasty day. There were about four of us there. Same kind of day, muddy.”
“I ran him a mile and a sixteenth, first out of the box, and Ramon Perez rode him,” Mott said.
Elusive Quality broke his maiden going that 1 1/16-mile trip Mott mentioned, under Perez, and by 11 1/2 lengths. The son of Gone West out of the Hero’s Honor mare Touch Of Greatness went on to a productive career highlighted by victories in the Grade 3 Jaipur and Poker Handicaps at Belmont and a runner-up finish to Honour And Glory in the Grade 2 King’s Bishop at Saratoga in his fourth start. Elusive Quality raced for Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum then enjoyed a stellar run as a stallion at Gainsborough Stud and Darley America. He sired champion and dual classic winner Smarty Jones and champion and Breeder's Cup Filly and Mare Sprint winner Maryfield in his first crop along with Grade 1 winner and top sire Quality Road and Breeders' Cup Classic winner Raven's Pass from subsequent crops. Elusive Quality died from infirmities of old age last spring at age 25.
“A lot like this except that was later in the year,” Mott said. “Yes, it was Derby Week. I remember because I was going to try and buy his mother and I’d been to a Derby party at Miss (Josephine) Abercrombie’s that week, some people were there and I said, ‘I’ve got this horse that can really run.’ Don’t you know, Bobby Spalding (of the former Stonerside Stable) and I went to try and buy the mare and somebody was already on it. Man, you open your mouth man and it’s like, whew, you’re out.”
Not much word about Hidden Scroll’s ability leaked out of Mott’s winter string at Payson Park – his son and assistant Riley tweeted “Hidden Scroll…we knew” with a fist bump emoji the morning after – and Hidden Scroll went off at 8-1 in his debut. Those odds were down a few points from his 12-1 on the morning line.
Hidden Scroll showed plenty of morning workouts for his debut, breezes going back to July and August at Churchill Downs before gap until starting again in early December at Payson. He breezed seven times at Payson before last Saturday.
“This horse was in Kentucky with Kenny McCarthy all summer,” Mott said, referring to his longtime assistant. “He was nearly ready to run there. He was ready to run at Churchill in the fall. He was walking around the barn feeling good and kicked a fuse box hanging on the wall and dinged up his hind leg a little bit. We sent him back to the farm for a little while and then he came down here to me at Payson. It was a shame.”
Mott added a second win on the Pegasus Day card two races later when Don Alberto Stable’s Dolce Lili overcame a slip on the first turn and came from off the pace to take the $125,000 South Beach Stakes going 7 1/2 furlongs on the yielding turf course. John Velazquez rode the homebred daughter of Scat Daddy who became a stakes winner and won for the first time since late last September at Belmont.
Notes: The early races on the card, including two turf sprint stakes, were taken off the grass. World Of Trouble took the opening stakes of the day, defeating Recruiting Ready by 2 3/4 lengths in the $150,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint. Stormy Liberal, crowned champion turf male for 2018 during Thursday night’s 48th Eclipse Awards Dinner, entered but was scratched by trainer Peter Miller when the race came off the turf. Miller also scratched Painting Corners from the $150,000 Ladies’ Turf Sprint. Cherry Lodge handled the four opponents who remained and improved on her third in last year’s edition run on the turf.