06/21/2017 1:56PM

Hovdey: Mott's Royal Ascot tack includes top hat and tails


They all say it. Ask any American racing fan why the Royal Ascot meet is at the top of their bucket list, and the answer comes flying back, “For the racing!”

Nonsense. Americans make the trip because they are besotted with all things British. They love the queen. They envy the accents. They savor the twee delights of tea at 11, cucumber sandwiches, and champagne poured throughout the afternoon. But mostly, they love the dress-up.

I will not speak to the women’s fashions. Neither am I qualified to comment on cold fusion or the price of grain futures. The variety is head-spinning, as if a 64-count box of Crayolas had been spilled across Ascot’s glamorous enclosures, each outfit more dazzling than the last.

Wisely, the guys are given fewer choices. They have only to deal with variations of black and gray, the cutaway morning coat, a nifty vest, somber tie, and then the hat. The estimable Nick Luck, hosting the NBC telecast of the Royal Ascot meet this week, stopped by a display of toppers that are required wearing in the Royal Enclosure and received a history lesson from a young haberdasher.

“In the past, people had smaller heads, so obviously there was a smaller supply of larger hats,” Luck was told. “For the people who had larger heads, it would be more expensive.”

Once again, the British class system at work.

No one looks good in a top hat. The face, squashed from above, looks like pudding spilled from an upturned cannister. The rest of the outfit doesn’t help much either, with everyone walking around as if they had raided the closet of Batman’s butler.

Such challenges have not stopped more and more American horsemen from surrendering to the heady public-relations campaign mounted by Royal Ascot, aided and abetted by that honorary Englishman Wesley Ward.

Graham Motion, Kenny McPeek, Mark Casse, and Todd Pletcher have dipped their toes into British waters, with varying degrees of success, while Ward’s record of nine Royal Ascot winners through Wednesday’s program has made him the most recognizable Yank in English racing circles since Steve Cauthen.

Now Bill Mott, of the Mobridge, S.D., Motts, has descended upon Royal Ascot in an attempt to win Saturday’s Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes with the well-traveled Long On Value, owned by the Wachtel Stable and George Kerr.

Mott, ever the man for small details, said preparation for this trip did not differ much from Long On Value’s Dubai experience last March, when he missed winning the Al Quoz Sprint by a nose. There was one exception.

“We did rent the clothes before we left,” Mott said. “All we need to get here is the hats. Riley checked that out for us a few days ago and put a hold on a couple.”

Riley, Mott’s son and assistant, also accompanied Long On Value to Dubai. The boss arrived Wednesday morning and headed straight to Newmarket, where the American invaders train before taking the 70-mile ride to their races at Ascot.

The Diamond Jubilee, named in honor of the queen’s long reign, is a 1,200-meter event that has been won recently by an international array of sprint stars, including Black Caviar and Choisir from Australia and the U.S. runner Undrafted, trained by Wesley Ward. Long On Value beat Undrafted in the Lucky Coin Stakes at Saratoga last summer.

“The race is on the straight, just like it was in Dubai, although I believe Ascot has a little bit of an incline to it,” Mott said of Saturday’s event. “The good thing with our horse is that he’s kind of a deep closer. Over in the States, you tend to lose a lot of ground looping the field, where here you don’t have to contend with that.”

Both invaders and the home squad have had to contend with unusually hot temperatures this week at Ascot, as the thermometer bubbled upward of 30 degrees Celsius. Mott was asked if that would impact Long On Value, who has competed in California, Minnesota, and Illinois as well as New York and Dubai.

“His weight is great, and his coat is absolutely like silk right now,” Mott said. “Anyway, it’s supposed to cool off in the next couple days. But it’s nothing. They think this is hot? This isn’t hot. This would be kind of a normal hot Saratoga day.”

Some trainers with a huge stable back home can get a little itchy with just a single horse to handle for a few days. Mott is taking advantage of the one-on-one with Long On Value, a 6-year-old son of Value Plus he has trained since the summer of 2013.

“He’s a real neat horse, pretty cool,” Mott said. “Sometimes you don’t realize it until you have a chance to get them off by themselves and spend a little extra time with them.

“Here he is, a $1,500 yearling that broke his maiden at Delaware and won a little stake at Colonial Downs,” Mott added. “And he’s taken us to Dubai and now Royal Ascot.

“So, we’re anxious to experience the whole thing. Hopefully, we’ll learn something, and one day maybe we’ll come back.”

And if they get lucky? Garrett O’Rourke, Juddmonte’s racing manager, asked Mott if he preferred to be addressed as Sir William or Lord Mott.

“I think it’s more like Country Bill,” Mott replied.