Hialeah Race Report: Mott's Bench Goes Deep

Published in the April 28 issue of The Blood-Horse
Bill Mott is not a bridge player. He's too busy, he says, overseeing the training of nearly 200 horses at multiple locations around the East Coast. But he well understands the concept of trumping his opponents. Take, for example, the April 21 Hialeah Turf Cup Handicap (gr. IIT) to which Mott nominated three runners.

Plan A was to run Stokosky, a recent Gary Tanaka purchase, but after a fourth-place finish in last month's Bougainvillea Handicap (gr. IIIT), Mott decided he would prefer more ground and shuttled the son of Stack to Keeneland for the Elkhorn Stakes (gr. IIIT). Next, the trainer considered Monarch's Maze, but determined that, with just a single race under his belt since November 1999, he needed more time.

No problem, resolved the 47-year-old conditioner, who simply reached a bit deeper into his arsenal and pulled out Del Mar Show, who responded with a one-length victory for his first graded stakes win.

"The original plan was to send him to New York for the Fort Marcy Handicap (gr. IIIT)," Mott said from his encampment at Churchill Downs. "But I took a look at who was likely to face him at Hialeah and I felt he could beat them. The idea is to try to keep them nominated for races they fit and then pick out the one doing the best."

The 4-year-old, in fact, could not have been doing much better. Following a disappointing 2000 campaign in which he won only once in six tries and battled lung infections for most of the summer, Del Mar Show headed into the Turf Cup victorious in both of his starts this year, including a handy score over the course in March's Royal Palm Handicap.

That Del Mar Show, with $120,000 banked for the Turf Cup win, has more than tripled his lifetime earnings through just four months of 2001 is no surprise to Mott.

"That breed gets better with age and maturity as long as they're sound," Mott admired of the offspring of Theatrical, a group he knows well. He not only trained Theatrical himself to a Turf Cup victory on his way to an Eclipse Award in 1987, but also some of his grade I-winning progeny: Geri, Duda, Royal Anthem, and Dahlia's Dreamer.

Still, Mott admitted, one would not look at Del Mar Show and immediately recognize the Theatrical influence. The Allen Paulson Trust's homebred is a smallish bay, medium in build, and not one whose appearance would indicate a stakes winner at a distance such as the 1 3/16 miles of the Turf Cup. For that, Mott credits the female line -- the Foolish Pleasure mare Prankstress. Del Mar Show is a full brother to Nabla, the dam of Del Mar Derby (gr. IIT) victor Walkslikeaduck -- which "gives them the turn of foot to stay close and the stoutness to finish."

That was precisely the game plan for the Turf Cup: jockey Robbie Davis and Mott's assistant trainer Don Stetler Jr. recognized it to be a "paceless race" and deigned to keep Del Mar Show near Honor Glide's lead. Stalking on the outside, within a length of the leader throughout, Davis rode with confidence, pulled alongside Honor Glide in deep stretch, and edged away in a final time of 1:53.06.

"A push button ride," Davis called it.

Stetler has had the enviable view of working as Mott's assistant for 18 months, and has seen first hand the qualities that have made his boss twice an Eclipse Award winner as champion trainer and, despite his youthfulness, honored with a 1998 election into racing's Hall of Fame.

"I thought I knew it all," Stetler said. "But I didn't realize how little I knew until I started with him. He's such an excellent horseman, especially in the way he spaces when his horses run and picks which one is right for a race."

Del Mar Show can now return to Mott's barn and hold his head up among other graded stakes winning grass performers such as Hap, Spindrift, Bomfim, Subtle Power, and King Cugat, waiting for that moment when the man holding all the aces finds the right suit.

"I do have some to choose from," smiles Mott, unembarrassed by his riches.

(Chart, Equibase)