Mott Embarks On Road To Derby With 'Honor'
By Ed Gray
Bob Baffert, D. Wayne Lukas, Nick Zito – those are the names of trainers that would immediately come to mind at the mere mention of the Kentucky Derby.
Bill Mott’s name? Not so much.
Although the Hall of Fame trainer’s program isn’t nearly as geared to the Triple Crown and he has saddled many fewer horses for the spring classics, it doesn’t mean that Mott is immune to Derby Fever.
“We always get it. It’s an exciting time. I get excited over it – the thought of it. I’ve been disappointed a few times – I know that part of it than the other part,” Mott said during a recent visit to Gulfstream Park. “If the timing is right and the stars are aligned, it’ll happen. We’d like to put ourselves in a position where it could happen, a position where if things go right, it could happen.”
It’s easy to identify To Honor and Serve as a star candidate for the Kentucky Derby, but the timing of things is much tougher to figure.
To Honor and Serve will be making his first start of 2011 in Saturday’s Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park, and, if he makes it into the starting gate at Churchill Downs on May 7, the son of Bernardini will have had only two preps this year.
“It worked for Elliott,” quipped Mott, referring to Elliott Walden, the stable manager of WinStar Farm who visited the Kentucky Derby winner’s circle last year with Todd Pletcher-trained Super Saver.
“No, it worked for Todd,” said Walden, who was standing nearby.
Mott hardly seemed concerned that To Honor and Serve would only have a two-race preparation for a start in the Kentucky Derby, noting that racing schedules have become considerably lighter than they were 20 years ago. He did acknowledge that the Live Oak Plantation’s colt would enter the Fountain of Youth with a somewhat light workout schedule.
“We’re going into this race with only six works, which isn’t an overabundance of works,” Mott said. “This is by no means supposed to be his best race. We want to get started and get a good race. We’d love to see a good effort, but we’re starting off the year, coming off a layoff.”
Light workout and racing schedules would seem to be a lot more of a concern if To Honor and Serve didn’t have such a solid foundation from a very productive 2-year-old campaign. After finishing second in his debut at Saratoga in September, To Honor and Serve won three straight races, including victories in the Nashua (G2) and Remsen (G2) at Aqueduct to conclude the 2010 season. His back-to-back stakes victories were flattered when Mucho Macho Man, who finished second in both races, captured the Risen Star (G2) Stakes at Fair Grounds last weekend.
“We’ve been two turns; we’ve been a mile and an eighth; we feel good about that. That was our plan to get that under our belt,” Mott said. “We thought if we didn’t go to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, we’d have a chance to get two races. We got the Nashua and we got the Remsen. If we’d gone to the Breeders’ Cup, we may have only got the one race, so we got an extra race. We were pleased with the outcome.”
Mott, who has been training To Honor and Serve at Payson Park in Palm Beach County, plans to ship his colt to Gulfstream Park during the week leading up to the Fountain of Youth.
“We’ll spend a couple days down here and school him in the paddock on Thursday,” he said.