Although trainer Graham Motion is pleased with how Adriano, his May 3 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) hopeful, has settled into life at Churchill Downs, he had to deal with an unsettling moment the morning of April 30 when a loose horse got a little too close to the Derby contender.
“It could have been hairy but it was fine,” Motion said of the incident. “We ducked in D. Wayne Lukas’ barn, and he asked if I needed a stall.”
Adriano will be providing his 43-year-old trainer with his second Kentucky Derby starter. The Cambridge, England, native saddled his first horse in the Run for the Roses in 1998 when Chilito finished 11th.
“Any of these big races are great to be a part of,” said Motion, whose biggest victory came in the 2004 John Deere Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT) with Better Talk Now. “You really have to pinch yourself. But the Derby is the best one.”
Motion began his career at Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard's stable and worked there from 1985-90. He worked in France briefly for trainer Jonathon Pease but returned to the U.S. in 1991 and began working for Bernie Bond. Three years later, Bond retired and Motion took over the stable.
It was while working for Pease that Motion met his wife, Anita. They have two children, and currently call Fair Hill, Md., home.
“This is something that happens once a year, and there is nothing like it,” Motion said of his Derby experience. “People get carried away with how they compare this race to other races internationally, but there isn’t another race like this in the world. It is kind of on a pedestal. It is probably the hardest race to win in the world.”
When asked if he thinks about what it would be like to win the Derby, Motion simply said: “I let myself think about it once a day, and then I try not to think about it again.”
Adriano, who is owned by Don Adam’s Courtlandt Farms, comes into the Derby off a win in the Lane’s End Stakes (gr. II) at Turfway Park March 22. Motion also conditioned Film Maker for Adam, and the Dynaformer filly provided the trainer with his first grade I victory.
“Maybe I am the opposite of Dickie Dutrow, but as a horse trainer you learn to deal with a lot more losses than wins,” said Motion, referring to Derby favorite Big Brown’s highly confident trainer. “I am not saying I don’t have confidence in my horse by any means, but I tend to be a little cautious about how excited I get.
“You kind of just hold your breath now and hope everything goes well. Adriano really is doing great. He really couldn’t be doing better. I am genuinely getting excited about it.”