News and STORIES

Bill Mott's Kentucky Derby Trail

Author: Clint Goodman
Published: Monday February 17, 2020
Bill Mott is working his way through the path to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1).

It was one year ago when Country House broke his maiden in his third start for Mott, and he went on to finish second in the Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford (G2) at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. 

Mott scored his first Kentucky Derby victory three days later when Country House was the victor due to the disqualification of Maximum Security. 

Return to Fair Grounds

Mott returned to Fair Grounds Feb. 15 to run in the Risen Star, and he entered a horse into each division of the 1 1/8-mile stakes. 

It didn't go completely as planned, and Moon Over Miami finished eighth in the first division. However, Modernist was able to top Mott's 2019 classic winner. 

Pam and Martin Wygod's homebred son of Uncle Mo ran fast from the rail under Junior Alvarado. He fought early and ended up winning by a length in the $400,000 stakes for 3-year-olds. Also running in the race was the TVG Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) runner-up Anneau d'Or, who finished ninth as the even-money favorite in his 3-year-old debut. 

Mott's 2019 Kentucky Derby winner was retired Feb. 14 due to laminitis. 

"I pulled out Country House's past performances and this horse's and looked at when they ran before the Risen Star, and I could see a repeat," said Mott.

Kentucky Derby Ticket

It's not known yet whether Modernist will be able to pull off the same thing as Country House in the Run for the Roses, but he is almost guaranteed a ticket to the race. By winning the Risen Star as part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, Modernist was awarded 50 points toward a starting spot in the May 2 opening race of the Triple Crown. 

Under the current format, that has been good enough to make it into the field of 20 in each of the previous editions. 

"We'll take it," Mott said. 

The next step for Modernist is likely the Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds, at 1 3/16 miles on March 21. 

"It's nice to go 1 1/8 miles this early," Mott said. "The timing to the Louisiana Derby is good, and he's handled the racetrack well."

Modernist used New York to spring forward, while Country House exited a Jan. 17 Gulfstream Park maiden win. Modernist finished fifth in his Sept. 28 debut at Belmont Park, and he crossed third on Dec. 7 at Aqueduct Racetrack. 

His third try was a 1 1/8-mile, two-turn distance for the first time. He ran fast early and scored a gate-to-wire, four-length victory Jan. 25 at the Big A. 

Mr. Monomoy scored the first division of the Risen Star, and Alvarado broke quickly from the rail with Modernist and followed a similar path. 

"The idea was to take advantage of being on the rail," Alvarado said. "The track was pretty fast, and the rail was pretty good. He came out running and put me in a good spot all the way around."


From the outside post in the field of 11, Ny Traffic and Modernist were on the front end in the run to the first turn. Ny Traffic had a short lead through fractions of :24.38 and :48.57. Modernist was able to move forward and take the lead as they left the quarter pole, and he was 1 1/2 lengths ahead at the eighth pole. 

"When I asked him, he was there," Alvarado said.

The only other runner to make a challenge was Major Fed, and he moved forward to pass up Ny Traffic and Mailman Money in the final furlongs. He was not able to get past Modernist. 

Modernist, who was sent off at 12-1 odds, paid $27.60 to win. He finished in 1:51.28, which was slower than the 1:50.43 Mr. Monomoy required a race prior.

A daughter of Bernardini, Modernist is the only foal out of Symbolic Gesture. 

"He started to act like a nice horse after the first time we ran," Mott said. "He's progressed very well and has become more mature."