Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott (far right) celebrates a win with To Honor and Serve's owner Charlotte Weber and jockey John Velazquez. (Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire)
By Tom Pedulla, America’s Best Racing
ARCADIA, Calif. – When Drosselmeyer pulled a dramatic upset in last year’s $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) following Royal Delta’s triumph in the $2 million Ladies’ Classic (G1) the day before at Churchill Downs, trainer Bill Mott relished the extraordinary sweep for the briefest of time. Then he moved on.
“As soon as those horses cooled out last year after the Breeders’ Cup, that’s unfortunately history. It’s for the record books,” he said. “You’ve got to start looking for something else to happen and hope that somebody else you already have in the barn can make it happen.”
Mott’s desire to turn the page so quickly reflects the enormous pressure that all elite trainers face. Even a sweep that had been accomplished only once before in the 28-year history of the Breeders’ Cup, by John Shirreffs with Life Is Sweet (Ladies’ Classic) and with Zenyatta (she beat the boys in the Classic) in 2009, was not enough to allow him to live in the moment for very long.
It turns out Mott has plenty of horsepower for this year. He will send Ron the Greek, Flat Out and To Honor and Serve into the Classic on Saturday. To Honor and Serve, now four, had been in the barn since the start of his career in behalf of Live Oak Plantation. The ownership group of Brous Stable, Wachtel Stable and Jack T. Hammer sent Ron the Greek to him late last year. Flat Out was transferred to Mott early this year.
There is, after all, nothing like winning to spur business. And Mott has come to be viewed as something of a guru in his ability to bring out the best in older horses. With his Classic trio, he has not disappointed any client.
“We’ve got three horses that we can really make a strong case for running in the race,” the Hall of Fame trainer said. “Not that I look to run against myself and, normally, on a day to day basis, we don’t do that. On the championship day, when it boils down to the biggest race of the year, you just have to do that and may the best horse win. Hopefully, one of them is good enough to win.”
Although 9-5 favorite Game On Dude figures to be a handful with his flawless 5-for-5 record at Santa Anita, a case can be made for each of Mott’s starters. Ron the Greek may have a leg up on the rest in that he is the only one to have a race over the track and it was a clear 3 ½-length decision at that.
“When Ron the Greek won the Santa Anita Handicap (G1) last spring we were excited, of course, knowing that the Breeders’ Cup was going to be run here this fall,” Mott said. “It’s a good sign when they’ve run the distance and they’ve run over the track. That’s one hurdle out of the way that he’s already handled.”
Mott noted that some sand was added in recent months and said, “It’s probably not exactly the same racetrack surface that he won over, but I’m sure it’s somewhat similar.”
Flat Out made steady progress for his new trainer and comes off a gritty score that allowed him to defend his title in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) at Belmont Park.
FLAT OUT (outside) WINNING WOODWARD
Photo by Adam Coglianese/NYRA
To Honor and Serve gutted out a neck victory over fellow Classic starter Mucho Macho Man in the Woodward Stakes (G1) at Saratoga two starts ago.
While Mott may be positioned for another big moment, he knows it is unlikely he will ever have a more powerful experience than the emotion that swept over him when Cigar added to his legend by taking the Classic in 1995.
“It was the culmination of an undefeated year, going 10 for 10,” Mott recalled. “That was like a dream. The fact that he was able to pull it off was tremendous. They are all good, but that was special.”
It is, perhaps, the only moment he still allows himself to savor.
|Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) Nov. 3 8:30 PM EDT|
|1||Pool Play||Miguel Mena||Mark Casse||30-1|
|2||Flat Out||Joel Rosario||William Mott||5-1|
|3||Alpha||Ramon Dominguez||Kiaran McLaughlin||20-1|
|4||Fort Larned||Brian Hernandez, Jr.||Ian Wilkes||5-1|
|5||Game On Dude||Rafael Bejarano||Bob Baffert||9-5|
|6||Brilliant Speed||Junior Alvarado||Thomas Albertrani||20-1|
|7||Handsome Mike||Mario Guttierrez||Doug O'Neill||30-1|
|8||Nonios||Martin Pedroza||Jerry Hollendorfer||20-1|
|9||Richard's Kid||Garrett Gomez||Doug O'Neill||12-1|
|10||Ron the Greek||Jose Lezcano||William Mott||6-1|
|11||Mucho Macho Man||Mike Smith||Kathy Ritvo||8-1|
|12||To Honor and Serve||John Velazquez||William Mott||8-1