07/11/2011 4:53PM

Graham Motion on Night School: Turf handicapping


Graham Motion is joining DRF and Night School for its Monday night chat. Want to know more about the world-renowned trainer who was in charge of this year’s Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom? Here’s a look back into the DRF archives, profiling the man behind some of the most highly-regarded horses in the business. READ MORE »

Night School weekly lessons are for any racing fan who wants to learn more about the game and include both novice and advance-level fan education. Each week, through December 19, 2011, topical experts will be brought in to share their expertise, including Daily Racing Form noted handicappers like Steven Crist and Brad Free.

The 90-minute sessions will take place from 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. eastern each week. The classes will include a 60-minute topical discussion, complete with an introduction video and downloadable lesson overview, and a 30-minute open forum where racing fans can ask the panel of experts anything and everything racing.

DRF Archives: Graham Motion

Graham Motion: Family Man by Ryan Goldberg

…Motion is a family man, humble, gracious, and a good listener; an interview often turns into a conversation among equals. But below his imperturbable demeanor burns a sentimental side one cannot miss on a visit to Fair Hill.

“I’m always very emotional,” Motion said, but even more so than usual after Shared Account’s neck victory over Midday in the Filly and Mare Turf, a race Motion had come so close in with Film Maker, second in 2004 and 2006 and third in 2005. Adding to the race’s significance was Edgar Prado’s ride, which made the difference. “It meant a lot to me to win with Edgar,” Motion said.

Prado, a 43-year-old Hall of Famer, hadn’t won a Breeders’ Cup race since 2006, and he had suffered through a disappointing year given his lofty career; his earnings were the lowest since 1996. Motion and Prado came up together in Maryland racing in the 1990s, and even Motion had trouble securing his services then. The first thing Prado said to him after the race was, “Thanks for still believing in me.”

People who know Motion weren’t surprised to see him this way. One of the owners of Better Talk Now, Brent Johnson, said that in the final stage of Better Talk Now’s career every race grew more special for Motion, as it might be the horse’s last. At 10, Better Talk Now retired in 2009 after 51 starts, winning 5 of his 24 Grade or Group 1 starts, with earnings of $4,356,664…

Graham Motion: Teammate by Marty McGee

… With more than 110 runners in his stable, Motion has assembled a large cast of employees, some of whom he credits with strong supporting roles in the Derby success of Animal Kingdom. Some have worked for Motion since he started his stable in 1993, well before he and his wife, Anita, started a family, which now includes their 14-year-old daughter, Jane, and 8-year-old son, Marcus, known better as Chappy.
Anita Motion said she and Graham consider some of the employees to be just like family, including assistants Adrian Rolls and Dave Rock and hotwalker Eliseo Ochoa, who have been with them from the beginning.

Family means everything to the Motions. Despite training and racing horses at various places, Graham, 46, designs his work schedule to maximize his time in Fair Hill, Md., where he has his primary training base and where the family lives. Motion said he was especially happy his niece Elizabeth attended the Derby with him and Anita and their two children. Elizabeth Motion is a student at Sewanee University in Tennessee…

Graham Motion: Defying Expectations by Andrew Beyer

…Graham Motion’s work with Animal Kingdom was exceptional because he defied so many precedents in the Derby. Except for Big Brown in 2008, no horse with four or fewer career starts had won the Derby since 1918. No horse coming off a six-week layoff had won since 1956. Even though Animal Kingdom’s owner Barry Irwin chastised turf writers for "getting bogged down in ... statistics," these were not quirky statistics. They underscored the fact that horses need sufficient experience and preparation to be fit enough for the extraordinary demands of the Derby. Yet Motion’s European-style training regimen got Animal Kingdom ready to deliver a powerful effort after a six-week layoff in the fifth start of his career.

Moreover, no horse had ever won the Derby without racing on dirt. Animal Kingdom had raced exclusively on grass and synthetic surfaces — games that are very different from dirt. Motion tested Animal Kingdom’s capabilities on dirt with a single, crucial workout at Churchill Downs to determine whether he would enter the Derby. After it, Motion said he was convinced that he had a "very, very special horse." He was proved right when Animal Kingdom accelerated in the stretch past Nehro — himself a formidable finisher — to score a 2 3/4-length victory…

Graham Motion: Old School by Andrew Beyer

…To a casual racing, such an attitude might seem inexplicable. How can a trainer not be obsessed by America’s biggest race? It’s as if a coach in the National Football League were indifferent to the Super Bowl, saying it didn’t suit his coaching style.

But Motion is the product of a school of training – the old school – that believes you shouldn’t push horses aggressively to reach an objective because you want it. Instead, the horse himself is supposed to signal when he is ready for a particular objective. Of the Derby, Motion said: “I want to be taken there.”

The son of parents who operated a stud farm in England, Motion was 16 when came with his family to the United States. Determined to have a career in the horse business, he went to work for trainer Jonathan Sheppard, best known as a developer of steeplechasers and long-distance turf runners, and from this future Hall of Famer he got his old-school education. Motion launched his career on the Maryland circuit in 1993, managing horses of all types – including plenty of low-level claimers – but eventually a gelding named Better Talk Now would define him as a trainer…