Sometime close to 11 a.m. on Monday, Bill Mott will focus his attention on the podium at the Humphrey S. Finney Pavilion in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. and watch as Cigar is inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.
Mott, who became the youngest trainer ever inducted into the Hall of Fame when he entered in 1998 at the age of 45, has built his reputation primarily with turf horses like champions Theatrical and Paradise Creek. But it was Cigar, the two-time Horse of the Year, that helped focus the nation's interest on racing when he won 16 straight races to tie Citation's modern North American record and paved Mott's path to the Hall of Fame.
Once Mott welcomes his old buddy into the Hall, he will head back to Saratoga Race Course to do what he does best. Monday afternoon, he will saddle Claiborne Farm's Patrol in the $150,000 National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame Handicap (gr. II) for 3-year-olds at nine furlongs on the turf.This will be a special day for Mott, and he has proven over the years to be a special occasion trainer.
He is hoping that he can make Monday a special day, too, by celebrating Cigar's induction into the Hall of Fame with a trip to the winners' circle.
"I feel that Cigar deserves his induction into the Hall of Fame," Mott said. "He deserves it for his consistency and for the enlightenment he gave to a lot of people in regards to this sport. He traveled everywhere, and for a good while, he was the centerpiece of racing. He drew a crowd wherever he went, and even after he was done racing, he made an appearance in New York."He is the first horse I've trained to make it into the Hall of Fame, and I was surprised how quickly he got in. I guess that is just evidence that he belongs. It would really be something special and mean a lot to me if we can win this race on Monday afternoon."
Although Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel and Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey have grabbed the headlines thus far in this 134th Saratoga season, Mott has always made himself quite at home at the Spa, where he has won eight training titles. He entered Saturday's card with six wins, one more than Frankel, to lead the current standings.
With one of the largest training operations in the country, Mott can pick his spots and usually does so with aplomb. He comes to Monday's feature with a horse on an upward form cycle that appears ready to add some black type to his resume.
A son of Lear Fan-Maid for Walking, by Prince Sabo, Patrol debuted for trainer Frank Brothers at Turfway Park on the dirt last September and ran third. The winner of that race was Repent, who nosed Bay Monster in the mile event.
Patrol was given the rest of the season off to have an ankle chip removed and was sent to Mott in early spring. When he made his 3-year-old debut, it was on the turf in May at Belmont Park - and he won easily. He followed that with another sharp effort on June 9th to win again at a mile and a sixteenth.
With an affinity for grass and an ability to handle firm and good courses, Patrol was sent to Delaware Park where he easily won the Nick Shuk Memorial. His three-race winning streak makes him a serious player in the Hall of Fame 'Cap.
"We went to Delaware Park because the timing of that race was right for us," Mott said. "He ran very well and it sets him up perfectly for this race."Things have been going good so far with him, but he has won all of his races on the lead. I guess we're going to find out a lot more about him on Monday."
Frankel, of course, is also a Hall o Famer and has his own ideas about Monday's handicap. He'll send out Juddmonte Farm's Chiselling. The capable Woodman colt began his career in California, where close finishes became his trademark. That trend continued when he shipped to Belmont Park and won the Lexington (gr. III) by a nose over Finality at 1 1/4 miles on July 14th.
Dogwood Stable's Finality is back to turn the tables in the Hall of Fame 'Cap. A son of Dehere, who won the Sanford, Saratoga Special and Hopeful en route to becoming the 1993 Juvenile champion, Finality has two wins and three seconds in his last five starts, but his losses in that span were by less than two lengths combined.
"He came out of the Lexington really well and he's been training well since," said trainer Todd Pletcher. "We didn't know for sure if he was going to go a mile-and-a-quarter because he was bred for speed. Since he ran well on the Belmont and Aqueduct turf going a mile-and- a-sixteenth and a mile-and-an-eighth, we thought we would keep him there and stretch him out in the Lexington, instead of shipping him out of town."
This will be Finality's fourth start of the year and 10th overall.His first two turf appearances were last fall at Belmont and at Calder in the latter months of his 2-year-old season."It was more than a hunch than anything else that we would try him on the grass as a 2-year-old," Pletcher said. "We didn't know if he was going to take to it. He trained really well on dirt, but his races weren't quite as good as we thought they would be. He did have a little turf pedigree on the bottom, so we figured it was worth a try." Fourth in the Lexington, but only beaten two lengths by Chiselling, was William Sorokolit Sr.'s Union Place. Unable to get the racing room he needed in the Lexington, Union Place looks to be a big play with trip handicappers in the Hall of Fame 'Cap.
"He came out of that race good, but that mile-and-a- quarter might have been too long a race for him," said Schulhofer, the son of retired Hall of Fame trainer Flint "Scotty" Schulhofer. "He ran pretty big, though. He was in a bit of switch there for a while and he came up flat, which was probably because he got bumped a bit. I think the mile-and-an-eighth will suit him a lot better."National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Handicap (gr. II)
PP. HORSE (JOCKEY), WGT.
1. Union Place (Edgar Prado), 115
2. Quest Star (Pat Day), 117
3. Patrol (Jerry Bailey), 120
4. Chiselling (Jorge Chavez), 119
5. Finality (John Velazquez),117
6. American Style (Richard Migliore), 113
7. Smoked Em (No Rider), 113 (main track only)
8. Dubai Tiger (Jose Santos),113 (main track only)