Mott Searching for Elusive Derby Victory
Monday, 28 April 2008
Racing Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott has spent spring at Churchill Downs every year since 1979 and has amassed an impressive résumé at the historic Louisville track. Mott is the all-time leading trainer at Churchill Downs by victories with 561 and by stakes wins with 69. The 57-year-old Mobridge, South Dakota, native won his first of nine training titles at Churchill in 1980.
“This is the coming of spring,” Mott said on Sunday morning. “It’s always good to be here for another year. I’ve been coming here every spring for nearly 30 years.”
Mott has won virtually every important race at Churchill during his illustrious career, but two races that have proven elusive are the signature events for which the track is best known – the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) and the Kentucky Oaks (G1).
Mott has not had a Derby starter since Blue Burner finished 11th in 2002 and his best career finish in the Kentucky Derby was an eighth-place finish by Favorite Trick in 1998. He has a shot to improve upon that on Saturday, when he sends out Grade 3 winners Court Vision and Z Humor in the 2000m classic race.
Court Vision, winner of the Iroquois Stakes (G3) on October 28 at Churchill, was beaten by 6,50 lengths while finishing third in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) on February 24 at Gulfstream Park in his season debut. The Gulch colt enters off a third-place finish in the Wood Memorial Stakes (G1) on April 5 at Aqueduct for owners IEAH Stables and WinStar Farm. Z Humor finished fourth in the Fountain of Youth and followed with a third-place finish in the Illinois Derby (G2) on April 5 at Hawthorne Race Course for owner Zayat Stables. Both horses worked at Churchill on Sunday with Court Vision breezing five furlongs in 1:00.80 and Z Humor covering the same distance in 1:01.20.
“Anytime you have horses on the improve, you have to be happy because anything can happen,” said Mott, who timed Z Humor in 1:00.60. “Z Humor is doing well, he had a good work this morning. He finished up nicely and looked good and smooth doing it.”
“Court Vision relaxed early, finished well, and looked good doing it. It went smooth. His works at Churchill have been sharp, and he’s typically not a great work horse.”
Mott, who trained two-time Horse of the Year Cigar, has pretty much seen it all during his time as an assistant to Racing Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg and nearly 30 years on his own. He has experienced the highs and lows of the Thoroughbred industry and certainly would not be considered a person who wears his emotions on his sleeve. Mott expects temperament to be a key factor for all 20 Derby contenders when they walk out on the track before 150,000 fans on Saturday.
“Court Vision is very good, Z Humor can get a little worked up at things,” Mott said of the Distorted Humor colt, who finished in a dead heat for first in the Boyd Gaming’s Delta Jackpot Stakes (G3). “We’ve been here a long time, and he’s getting pretty used to the paddock so I don’t think it will be a major issue. Derby day, there’s really nothing you can do to prepare for that.”
with thanks to Mike Curry of Thoroughbred Times & Racenet www.racenet.com.au