Trainer Bill Mott has enjoyed a Hall of Fame career spanning some five decades, complete with a bevy of Breeder’s Cup victories and Eclipse Awards. He’s won 10 Breeder’s Cup races, a Dubai World Cup and a Belmont Stakes. One race that has eluded the veteran conditioner is the Kentucky Derby.
In fact, Mott has only had seven Kentucky Derby starters in a career that began in 1973 and includes nearly 5,000 wins. His best chance by far will come in 2019 as Wood Memorial victor Tacitus sits atop the Derby points leaderboard with 150 after capturing both the Wood and Tampa Bay Derby. After breaking his maiden by a neck at Aqueduct in November of 2018, the son of Tapit was freshened, coming back to win by 1 ¼ lengths in Tampa while winning by an identical margin in the Wood despite a troubled trip.
“He came out of it (The Wood) very well,” Mott’s assistant Leana Willaford told Bloodhorse. “He was a little tired, but that’s to be expected. It’s nice to see him overcome (an unfavorable trip). He’ll go back to the track here (at Aqueduct) in three days, and we’ll train him lightly and send him over there when Bill gets to Churchill.”
Hidden Scroll’s Plans a Mystery
After romping by 14 lengths in his debut over the sloppy going at Gulfstream, Hidden Scroll appeared to be Mott’s best Derby hope. However, after a fourth-place finish in the Fountain of Youth, Hidden Scroll finished a well-beaten 6th in the Florida Derby dashing his Derby dreams. The horse’s future plans are now up in the air as ownership and Mott will give the son of Hard Spun some much-needed rest.
“We’ll regroup,” Garrett O’Rourke, Juddmonte Farms racing manager, told the Gulfstream Park media office. “We moved too quickly. We all got impressed. The Derby is always on the first Saturday in May. We got Derby dreams. We threw him in there — tried to get there — and the horse wasn’t ready.”
Filly Picture Shaping Up as Well
The Kentucky Oaks picture is becoming clearer by the day as well. In Saturday’s Grade I Ashland Stakes at Keeneland, longshot Out for a Spin outran her 52-1 odds under Paco Lopez, prevailing by a neck to reward her backers, paying $106 to win. Trained by Dallas Stewart, the daughter of Hard Spun is now a winner of four in a row and four out of five lifetime starts. Heavy favorite Jaywalk, the 2018 juvenile filly champion never recovered from a bump at the start, eventually finishing third.
“In this great game that we have, there are ups and downs, and this is an up,” Stewart told Bloodhorse. “Great to have a win today with this big, beautiful filly. She took it (almost) wire-to-wire, and Paco (Lopez) gave her a great ride. We’re going to take (her) to the Kentucky Oaks from here.”
From Misery to Elation
Less than one hour after winning the Ashland and punching his ticket to the Kentucky Oaks, Stewart experienced the lowest of lows as his 4-year old filly Cathedral Reader broke down at the top of the stretch in the Grade I Madison and had to be euthanized.
“On what was an otherwise spectacular day, our celebration is tempered due to the catastrophic injury sustained by Cathedral Reader during the running of the Madison,” Keeneland president and CEO Bill Thomason said in a statement Saturday night. “We have spoken with Ms. Gayle Benson’s Racing Manager, Greg Bensel, and trainer Dallas Stewart, expressing our sympathy for their loss.”