The job of a Thoroughbred racehorse trainer, especially one of the highest caliber, is that of constant stress with centrifugal pressure to keep a fragile creature in optimal athletic form.
Hall of Fame conditioner Bill Mott has looked that lion in the incisors enough to appreciate a pupil like Wachtel Stable, George Kerr, and Gary Barber's Long On Value.
A barn favorite for his consistency and versatility, the multiple graded stakes winner just missed March 25 at Dubai's Meydan Racecourse, where he lost by a diminishing nose to The Right Man in stakes-record time (1:09.59) in the about six-furlong Al Quoz Sprint (G1), giving the United States its best finish in the straight-course turf dash.
The surprising effort from a horse who was as high as 66-1 in betting markets underscored the mastery of his 114-time grade 1-winning trainer, whose ability to ship a horse overseas to run well has demanded respect as far back as Paradise Creek's nose loss in the 1994 Japan Cup (G1) and Cigar's iconic triumph in the inaugural Dubai World Cup of 1996.
"I don't think we could have asked for anything more," Mott said. "(Long On Value) really did his job and everything he could do. He overcame the ground and still ran a good race. We've never had the belief that yielding or soft (turf) was to his advantage and thought he was better on firm going, but he ran very well anyway. He came with a nice run, (jockey) Joel (Rosario) rode him well, and he did everything but win. It was a heartbreaker, but I still give him a lot of credit.
"He's a pretty cool horse, because he's been so versatile, winning from five furlongs to a mile and an eighth, and he always tries," Mott said. "When he was 3, we stretched him out and he won the (grade 2 Twilight Derby) going long during Breeders' Cup weekend, and he won a stakes going short last year. He's been a real fun horse to have around and there's never been a tremendous amount of pressure that came along with him, like with a Triple Crown-type horse. He's climbed up the ladder and done his job well and he never lets you down."
A sprint stakes winner on dirt and turf at 2, Long On Value committed to the grass during the latter half of a sophomore campaign that saw him win two route stakes before taking another in February of his 4-year-old season.
The following year, he consistently faced top turf milers before acing his return to turf sprinting in the 5 1/2-furlong Lucky Coin Stakes at Saratoga Race Course in July. After tailing off briefly toward the end of last season, he was given two months off and returned with a huge effort to just miss in the Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint in late January.
"Before we ran at Gulfstream, Stephen Nagler told me he thought we should think about the (Al Quoz)," Mott said. "I agreed that we should naturally consider it, but it wasn't until after he ran such a great race—he was third, but lost a lot of ground and finished really well—that we were all in. I have to thank Steve for making the suggestion and the rest of the team in Dubai. They do a great job."
Nagler, a titan in the world of sports broadcasting and seven-time Emmy Award winner, is the American representative for Royal Ascot and Dubai Racing, and the founder of SCN Communications. A veteran of ABC Sports and CBS Sports, and the former vice president of live programming at HRTV, Nagler has been integral to the recent overseas successes of American runners via his finely tuned recruiting eye.
Such prospecting prowess was no doubt in play when the former Monday Night Football producer surmised that Long On Value would ace his attempt over the Al Quoz conditions.
"As far as the race itself and being on a straight (course), we didn't really change anything with his training because we don't have the facilities to do that, but we felt that it could possibly be to our advantage," Mott said. "Because he's a closer, we tend to have to come around horses all the time on the turn and lose ground. The way the race worked (down the Meydan straight), it wound up being to his advantage."
The Al Quoz may not be the last time the son of 2004 Florida Derby (G1) runner-up Value Plus meets the world's top turf sprinters on a straight course. His big performance now opens the door to even more prestigious events.
"One thing that has been mentioned now is Royal Ascot," Mott said. "It's toward the end of June and might work well for him. He'll arrive back in Chicago (for quarantine) from Dubai (March 30), then have April and May mostly off before preparing to race again in June, and that's when those races are."
The logical races under consideration at Europe's premier meet are the five-furlong King's Stand Stakes (G1) June 20, and the six-furlong Diamond Jubilee (G1) June 24. Each race is contested over Ascot's undulating straight course and the latter, considering Long On Value's run at Meydan at roughly the same distance, seems more likely.
"He isn't nominated to the Breeders' Cup," Mott said. "It's also at Del Mar, so I'm not sure if the (five-furlong distance of the grade 1 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint) is his best trip, but that's something we will approach and decide on later on in the season."
Mott also expressed satisfaction in his most beloved trainee, assistant trainer and son Riley Mott. The 25-year-old protégé was left to his own devices in Dubai for the first time, following multiple Middle East excursions working under his father's wing, including a 2015 Dubai World Cup third with Lea . Even more impressively, the younger Mott was gracious and eloquent beyond his years during and after the emotional rollercoaster of the two-minute wait for the photo-finish result.
"I've sent him to California and other places, but this was his first major trip halfway around the world by himself and he did very well," Mott said. "He had seen it all before with me and felt comfortable doing it. It was nothing new for him.
"His mother did a great job training him."