Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott was smiling and content Friday morning with his horses safely back in their stalls after completing their exercise. Mott will run defending champion Royal Delta in the Ladies' Classic Friday afternoon and has three runners -- Flat Out, Ron the Greek and To Honor and Serve -- in the $5 million Classic on Saturday.
"The horses appear to be doing very well so consequently we feel pretty good. We're pretty happy about it," Mott said.
Mott's four horses were shipped from New York to California early Monday morning just ahead of Hurricane Sandy's arrival in the Northeast. Royal Delta suffered a small cut in her hindquarters while being loaded into her stall on the plane at the Newburgh, New York, airport.
"Actually, it went off without a hitch," Mott said. "It could have been bad with the hurricane and all, but actually went off as planned. Frankly, we wound up making the trip about 10 hours before we would have normally, but that worked out fine.
"The only setback was with the mare when she scraped herself getting on the plane. Apart from that, everything else has gone very well. And that was enough trauma for me for one experience. It led to some tense moments wondering how it was going to play out. As of right now, it's good."
Mott could set some Breeders' Cup records this weekend. He swept the Ladies' Classic and the Classic last year, equaling a mark set by John Shirreffs in 2009. He won the Classic with Hall of Famer Cigar in 1995 and added the second win with Drosselmeyer last year to tie Charlie Whittingham and Jay Robbins for most wins by a trainer in the Classic.
In the days leading up to the event, Mott was asked to reflect on his Classic wins. After insisting that he prefers to look ahead, he relented and added some perspective.
"They're all a little different, but Cigar was very emotional," he said. "It was exciting to win with Drosselmeyer. Obviously, when Cigar won it was the culmination of an undefeated year, 10-for-10. That was like a dream in the fact that he was able to pull it off. It was tremendous. They're all good. That was an emotional one."
Time has shown that Cigar's accomplishments were very special.
"You've got to have the right horse and he was the right horse," Mott said. "He just kept doing it and doing it and doing it. Every time he'd show up, show up, show up. You didn't have to make any excuses for him, he just got it done.
"It wasn't like the pace was too fast, too slow, he didn't like the racetrack, he got stuck on the inside, he did this, he did that. He just kept pecking away and pecking away. It's hard to put two or three wins together back to back, much less 10, which he did that year."
Mott said he realized at the time that Cigar was putting together a legendary type of season.
"I remember telling my assistants at the time, 'you better get a grip on this because you're not going to see this very often,'" he said. "By the time we got to the middle of that run it was so special and so unbelievable. Just the opportunity to be around a horse like that was a special experience for me and I think the other guys that were around him."