Cup of Coffee: Fifty Years

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Jo Motion, nine months pregnant with her fourth child, woke up her husband in the middle of the night.

“I’ve got to go to the hospital,” Jo said.

“You couldn’t,” Michael Motion replied. 

Oh, she could. 

Michael and Jo Motion loaded into his truck and drove to the maternity hospital near Newmarket, England. They got to the hospital, checked in and then he said goodbye.

Yes, goodbye. 

Michael Motion, ever a horseman, had a lot to do. His friend and client William Hackman, who owned Orange Hill Farm in Middleburg, had purchased all of Lord Astor’s breeding stock. The mares, yearlings and foals were due to fly to New York, then ship to Saratoga to be sold at Fasig-Tipton in a specially arranged one-day sale after the yearling sessions. Motion was in charge and figuring he couldn’t do a lot for his wife but he could do a lot for the horses, he hopped back in his truck and floored it back to the farm to oversee the process. 

“She had done this three times,” Motion said. “I was stressed about the animals and I had Bill Hackman waiting for me at the airport.”

If you believe in divine intervention or divine comeuppance, then perhaps, after reading the next part of the story, you’ll say, “serves him right.”

Halfway back to the farm, the truck’s dashboard lit up, a red warning light, flashing like it had heard the news about the expecting mother abandoned in hospital. The truck drifted to a stop and that was it. It was 3:30 in the morning on Newmarket Heath.

 “I don’t know what in the hell to do,” Motion said, while standing at the sales grounds Monday afternoon. “It’s too far to walk, no cell phones or any of that stuff, so I’m sitting by the side of the road and my truck starts to burn.”

Motion looked around, helpless, thinking about Hackman’s horses – enough to fill three Boeing 707s – sitting in one direction and thinking about his wife, who could have had their fourth child by now, in the other. 

In the dark, in the distance, he heard an engine, rumbling, getting closer and then blew past him. Then he heard brakes screeching and the truck backed toward him. 

“Uh, is that you, Mr. Motion?” a man said, leaning outside the front window of a horse van.


“I thought it looked like your truck,” the van driver said. “What are you doing here?”

“Well, I’ve just taken my wife to the hospital to have a baby,” Motion said, “and I’m on my way back to load your trucks.”

“Hop in.”

By 10 in the morning, Motion and the horses were on their way to Saratoga.

“We loaded a convoy of horses, walked them up a ramp into the plane, three stalls in a row, then flew across the Atlantic and here we were,” Motion said. “The horses had not been prepared the way they would have been here. They had been scattered on various farms in England, I was just the coordinator, getting them all together, I flew over with one of the loads of horses, passed quarantine and brought them up here and had a very successful sale.”

Asked, when his fourth child was born, Motion shrugged.

“Oh, I don’t know,” Motion said. 

Asked when he found out he had a second son, Motion shrugged again.

“I guess she caught up with me on the phone when we got here,” Motion said. “This is antediluvian stuff, 50 years ago.”

Yes, 50 years ago today.

Andrew Vernon Motion was born sometime that morning, nobody seems to remember, Aug. 9, 1966. 

The fourth child of Michael and Jo Motion and younger brother of Graham, Andrew celebrates his 50th birthday today. With a one-horse consignment, his first at Saratoga, Motion could have two reasons to celebrate. The Virginia-based horseman waded tepidly into the pinhooking business four years ago, purchasing a couple of cheap fillies, it has grown to this, a Ghostzapper filly with a deep family selling at Saratoga. 

“I’ve thought about this since 1978, when Dad first brought me here and George Featherstone took our picture at the Fasig-Tipton cocktail party,” Motion said, while standing under a tree outside his consignment of one Monday morning. “It lit the fire, I never thought I would actually get here.”

With a push from his wife, Janie, and his daughters Lillibet and Mary, Motion put a plan into motion (no pun intended), cobbling up $10,000, buying a couple of weanlings and four years later, he’s in Saratoga with a free-walking daughter of Ghostzapper.

Tomorrow is really quite a big record day, his birthday, his first yearling at Saratoga, the whole bit,” Michael Motion said. “That’s why we’re all gathered here.”

Separate for the first birth day, together for the 50th.