Bill Mott lowered his binoculars, fans clapped, Mott’s wife Tina patted his right shoulder and kissed his left cheek. As Mott walked along the top row of the clubhouse box seats toward the winner’s circle, the Hall of Fame trainer summed up Hofburg’s romp in the Curlin Stakes over a sloppy track at Saratoga Friday.
“Without being arrogant, it was what we should have seen,” Mott said.
Sent off as the 1-5 favorite, Juddmonte Farm’s homebred returned to the winner’s circle for the first time since breaking his maiden in March. In between, he wrestled crocodiles in three consecutive Grade 1 starts, finishing second in the Florida Derby, seventh in a typical rough-and-tumble Kentucky Derby and third in the Belmont Stakes.
Seven weeks after the Belmont, Hofburg needed a confidence boost and his connections obliged, opting for the $100,000 Curlin instead of today’s $600,000 Jim Dandy. It was time to win a race.
Ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., Hofburg broke slow, settled in last, moved five wide and cruised home to beat Nicodemus by 5 lengths. Zing Zang finished third after 9 furlongs in 1:50.18. Hofburg handled the sloppy track without relishing it, winning easily but without bombast. It was workmanlike, which is pretty much his style.
“Would have I liked to see him do it like this?” Mott said, pulling his hands to his chest. “Does he get over it? Yeah. Does he love it? I don’t know if he loved it.”
Ortiz, aboard Hofburg for the third consecutive time, felt the same way.
“He was OK on the track,” Ortiz said. “Just OK.”
Hofburg broke well from his inside post but was quickly out-footed by his four rivals as Ortiz wagged his whip in his right hand, lowered his weight close to his red saddle and angled Hofburg off the rail and into an outside slot in last, making sure he was closer than he’d been in his past three races.
To read the rest of the Curlin recap, download Saturday’s digital edition of The Saratoga Special presented by EasyFix Stable Solutions.