Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott was beaming Oct. 30 after watching two of his entrants in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships turn in impressive workouts at Churchill Downs.
To Honor and Serve, Mott’s Classic (gr. I) contender, breezed five furlongs in 1:00 2/5, fifth best among 58 horses working that distance over a fast main track. The 3-year-old son of Bernardini --Pilfer, by Deputy Minister, posted fractional splits of :12 4/5, :24 3/5, :36 4/5, and :48 2/5. He galloped out six furlongs in 1:13 4/5 and seven furlongs in 1:29 1/5.
“He was very smooth and very professional with everything,” Mott said of the colt’s workout.
Royal Delta, who will contest the Nov. 4 Ladies’ Classic (gr. I), posted the fourth best time of the day for 33 horses working a half-mile, getting the distance in :47 4/5. She was timed in :12 4/5, :25, and :36 1/5. She galloped out six furlongs in 1:14 4/5.
“If you didn’t like that, you don’t like training horses,” Mott said. “That’s what you’re looking for. You just dream of getting up in the morning and coming out and seeing something like that. She went great. The majority of a trainer’s job is to just to try to not do anything foolish and keep the horse out of trouble. It just makes you feel good when you see them go well and everything went right. I feel good about it and I feel good about the way she’s doing.”
To Honor and Serve, winner of the Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) Sept. 24, held his head a bit high during the breeze and came through the stretch in the three path. He did it quite easily, with less of a gallop out than Royal Delta. To Honor and Serve was not equipped with the extension blinkers that Mott had been using on him for his regular gallops.
Bred in Kentucky by Twin Creeks, Larry Byer, and Rancho San Miguel, To Honor and Serve has won five of nine lifetime starts with $996,340 in earnings. The bay was on the Triple Crown trail earlier this year on the strength of two grade II wins as a 2-year-old. After finishing third in the Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth (gr. II) and the Florida Derby (gr. I), To Honor and Serve sustained an injury that derailed Mott's classic plans.
Mott said he likes his position in the Classic with To Honor and Serve, who has filled out physically since earlier in the season. “It’s always good to have a fresh horse,” Mott said in reference to the colt’s three races since returning from a splint injury. “He’s gotten a little more aggressive and wants to gallop a little farther.”
Royal Delta entered the track in the pre-dawn darkness shortly after 6 a.m., accompanied by stablemate Courageous Cat , the TVG Mile (gr. IT) entrant who is scheduled to work Oct. 31.
Royal Delta's striking appearance has impressed observers at Churchill Downs. The dark bay moved easily through the turn but really leveled off in the stretch. She has a very elongated body and stride, and looks very fit (and thin; she is not carrying any extra weight).
Mott was on his Paint pony near the wire on the outside rail watching her break off on the backstretch. Even as Courageous Cat galloped by, Mott never took his eyes off Royal Delta, and he watched from his pony as she came down stretch, running in the two path. She then galloped out a quarter-mile with interest while not really encouraged much.
A 3-year-old daughter of Empire Maker --Delta Princess, by A.P. Indy, Royal Delta is a homebred racing for Bandar bin Saud’s Palides Investments. She has won four of seven starts, including the Alabama Stakes (gr. I) and Black-Eyed Susan (gr. II).
After breaking her maiden by an impressive 12 lengths in her career debut, Royal Delta finished ninth when elevated into stakes company at Tampa Bay Downs. She rebounded next out, winning an allowance at Keeneland by three lengths.
Mott said he elected not to run Royal Delta in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) while opting for the Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico.
“We thought she was a little too inexperienced to go in the Kentucky Oaks with a 14-horse field. I think she’s advanced quite a bit since the Black-Eyed Susan.”
With a stable loaded with talent for the World Championships, Mott shipped his horses to Churchill Downs three weeks ago to allow plenty of time for preparation.
“It’s the end of the year; it’s the championship races. You don’t want to leave any stone unturned,” Mott said of his reasoning. “Everything’s gone like clockwork so far.”
While some give his horses a good chance of running well on Nov. 4-5, Mott said “I don’t think there are any easy races. If you are going to win it (a Breeders’ Cup race) you know you’re going to have to run a big race.”
Ian Tapp contributed to this story