Updated on 09/15/2011 1:18PM

BC AM Roundup 10/23: Mott faces an un-Hap-py dilemma


ELMONT, N.Y. - Among Hall of Fame trainers, D. Wayne Lukas is the resident ex-basketball coach.

But lately Bill Mott has been receiving a first-hand lesson in the frustration a hoops coach faces with a "tweener."

On the hardwood court, a "tweener" is a player who is tad small for one position and a step slow for another.

In Saturday's Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships at Belmont Park, the "tweener" is Mott's grass star, Hap.

Owned by Michael Paulson and Edward White, Hap is a square peg being pushed into the round hole of the Breeders' Cup Turf.

Of the two Breeders' Cup turf races, one, the Mile, is too short for Hap. The other, the 1 1/2-mile Turf, may be a couple of furlongs too long.

What's a trainer to do?

What else? Like a touch football game, go long.

"The decision to enter Hap in the Turf came down to knowing he wasn't suited by the Mile," Mott said. "We figured he hadn't proven that he couldn't go a mile-and-a-half, so let's find out if he can."

Hap, who logged his final work for the Turf with a sharp five-furlong grass drill in 59.60 seconds Tuesday at Belmont, has won four of five 2001 starts, including three Grade 2 stakes, the Shadwell Mile at Keeneland, and Saratoga's Bernard Baruch and Pimlico's Dixie, both at 1 1/8 miles. The son of 1987 Breeders' Cup Turf winner Theatrical was also second in the Grade 1 Arlington Million at 1 1/4 miles.

Those races would seem to indicate that Hap would be better suited by eight furlongs than 12, but as far as the Mile goes, it's a case of been there, done that - and learned a lesson.

Hap was ninth in last year's Breeders' Cup Mile and before that was fifth in the Kelso Handicap, his only start in one of Belmont Park's one-turn mile grass races.

"It would be shame on me if we tried him in the Mile again," Mott said. "It's too short for him. He didn't run well in the Kelso either, so we knew he couldn't try the Mile again."

As much as the Arlington Million was Hap's only race beyond nine furlongs, Mott is hopeful the inherently slower fractions in a 1 1/2-mile race might enhance Hap's tactical speed and enable the 5-year-old horse to handle the added distance.

"Certainly the fractions will be important as will getting firm turf," Mott said. "I certainly feel good about his chances because he's a trier. He went well in his work today and he's awfully sharp. He's doing well enough right now, though my hope is that he doesn't get too sharp. I don't want him to be in the bridle too much for this race."


Trainer Scotty Schulhofer couldn't ask for a better day than Tuesday.

It started with the news that his son Randy's wife, Laura, gave birth to the couple's first child, making Scotty a grandfather for the sixth time.

Then his Breeders' Cup Distaff candidate Exogenous turned in a picture-perfect, four-furlong work in 48 seconds.

"It was a very nice work. She's doing great and hopefully she'll keep it up until Saturday," said Schulhofer, whose newest grandson was named Scott Graham Schulhofer.

Exogenous comes into the Distaff off Grade 1 victories in the Beldame and Gazelle at Belmont, which has turned the battle for the 3-year-old filly title into a lively horse race. Flute seemed well ahead in the race for an Eclipse Award after her victory in the Alabama, but she finished second to Exogenous in the Beldame. If Exogenous can pull off an encore in the Distaff, a filly who went into September without a stakes win - or blinkers - could emerge as the champ.

"All along we thought she had more talent than she showed. She was always fooling around. When she was second to Flute in the Alabama (by 4 3/4 lengths) she was cocking her head and lugging in, so we decided to put blinkers on her for the Gazelle and that did the trick," Schulhofer said. "She ran a great race in the Beldame and she hasn't skipped a beat in her training since then."


If perseverance can win a Breeders' Cup race, then look for Affirmed Success in the winner's circle after the BC Mile.

A 7-year-old gelding, Affirmed Success, who drilled in 47.80 on the turf Tuesday, will be starting in a Breeders' Cup race for the fourth year in a row when he breaks from the gate in Saturday's Mile.

A sprinter earlier in his career, Affirmed Success was switched to the grass after 12th- (in 1999) and sixth-place finishes in the Sprint illustrated to trainer Richard Schosberg that six furlongs was too short of a distance for the son of Triple Crown champ Affirmed.

"We wanted to get him a Breeders' Cup win and we saw that wasn't going to happen in the Sprint, so we put him on turf," Schosberg said. "I don't know if there's any other horse who deserves to win a Breeders' Cup race more than he does."

Affirmed Success was fourth in last year's Mile, though beaten by only a half-length in a four-horse, blanket finished. Lightly campaigned this year, he has raced only three times, winning a pair of grass stakes at Belmont, the Poker, at a mile, and the seven-furlong Jaipur. He came within a nose of bringing an unbeaten 2001 record into the Mile, finishing second last month to Numerous Times in the Grade 1 Atto Mile at Woodbine in his most recent start.

Back home at Belmont, Schosberg says the one-turn conditions of the Mile will suit his horse better than most of the other starters.

"I'm confident about his chances because he's a specialist at one-turn races," Schosberg said. "A one-turn mile here at Belmont favors a horse like him with tactical speed over a closer. He worked fine today and let's see if that carries over to Saturday."


A pair of Filly and Mare Turf starters turned to the dirt Tuesday for their final Breeders' Cup preps.

Lailani, who could be sent off as the favorite by virtue of a victory in Belmont's Grade 1 Flower Bowl, breezed six furlongs in 1:17.40, while Chaste, who was fourth in the Flower Bowl, handled four furlongs in 48.60 seconds.

In other news, the overseas flight that was supposed to bring Crystal Music and Mot Justeto the United States Tuesday was delayed 24 hours due to an unspecified problem with the FedEx airplane. It is now scheduled to arrive at 12:40 a.m. Wednesday.


Peeping Tom, who will give new meaning to the term "claim to fame" if he wins the Sprint, worked three furlongs Tuesday in 36.20 seconds to conclude his preparation for the six-furlong Sprint.

Claimed for $40,000 last year out of his second career start by Flatbird Stable, Peeping Tom won fourth straight races earlier in the year, highlighted by the Grade 1 Carter Handicap at Aqueduct.

"Tom" struggled in his last two races, finishing fifth in the Tom Fool Handicap and fourth in the six-furlong Forest Hills at belmont on Oct. 7.


The Juvenile field shrank to 12 with Tuesday's news that Striking Song was declared from the race with a chip in his left hind ankle.

Striking Song had won only one of four starts, but was coming off a five-length maiden win at Santa Anita in which he earned an impressive Beyer Speed Figure of 100.

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