Birthday wish: More Mott magic at Saratoga
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — Turning
64 on Saturday, Bill Mott celebrated his birthday in the winner’s circle at Saratoga Race Course.
Another case of good timing for the Hall of Fame trainer, and winning a major race with a horse switching surfaces.
Mott took a page from the Cigar playbook and won the Jim Dandy Stakes with a previous turfer making his first start on dirt. Good Samaritan, with a strong late kick, upset the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winners in Saratoga’s Grade
2 $600,000 prep for the Aug. 26 Grade 1 Travers Stakes.
“Elliott Walden (president/CEO of WinStar Farm) had been trying to get me to run him on the dirt ever since the Breeders’ Cup last November,” Mott said. “We … missed some of the Triple Crown prep races and we decided … to continue on the grass and point toward the Belmont Derby (July 8), which he ran very good there. We actually discussed waiting for the Travers for his first race (on the dirt). Last week, we came to the conclusion that we should try this race.”
Last of five early, the Harlan’s Holiday colt finished a surprising 4 3/4 lengths in front after a fast-rated nine furlongs in 1:50.69. Ridden by Joel Rosario, Good Samaritan paid $19.20, $5.60 and $3.50. He and Giuseppe the Great keyed an unlikely exacta paying $145, the latter graded stakes placed in his last two starts but eligible for an entry-level allowance.
“It’s awesome (to win on Mott’s birthday),” said Rosario. “I am happy for Bill. He always gives me good horses.”
Derby winner Always Dreaming finished a tiring third as even-money favorite, beaten 5 1/4 lengths and denying trainer Todd Pletcher and Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez a fifth winner on the card. The Bodemeister colt broke quickly from the rail post, going the first mile in 1:38.23, but was under siege turning for home and saved the show spot by a head over Pavel.
Preakness winner Cloud Computing, who like Always Dreaming had not raced since May 20, finished last after pressing the pace, Javier Castellano riding for trainer Chad Brown.
Mott, meanwhile, won a Saratoga race on his birthday for the 16th time in 24 years, according to New York Racing Association records. July 29 was a dark day in the track’s 2014 racing season, and Mott was shut out on his birthday the last two years.
Finding class relief from Oscar Performance, who defeated the bay colt in his last two starts at Belmont Park and also in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita, Good Samaritan further muddled the pecking order in the 3-year-old male division.
Spoiling the first Jim Dandy matchup of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winners, Good Samaritan evoked memories of the Mott-trained Cigar, who won 16 consecutive races and twice was named Horse of the Year after switching from turf to dirt.
Good Samaritan ran on the Derby undercard but in the Grade 2 American Turf, finishing second by a length to Arklow. Overnight, he’s become a major player in the 3-year-old division, which after three different winners in the Triple Crown series remains wide open as August approaches.
“We’ll certainly nominate for the Travers and we’ll talk about it,” Mott said. “I don’t see why we wouldn’t give it a try.”