Updated on 09/15/2011 12:45PM

If it's dry, it's Baptize

Email

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- Bill Mott will have one eye on the sky and one eye on his horse - and he will try not to go cross-eyed. The Hall of Fame trainer wants to run Baptize in Monday's Grade 2 $150,000 National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame Stakes, in which Baptize would be the starting highweight and the likely favorite, but since the colt's worst race came on a soft turf course, Mott is hopeful the rain will stay away.

Plan B would be to scratch out of the Hall of Fame, a 1 1/8-mile grass race, and await the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park on Aug. 18. But Mott would prefer to run here, in large part because he believes Baptize may be more effective at nine furlongs than at the Secretariat's 1 1/4 miles.

"If the ground would be real soft, we wouldn't run," Mott said at his barn Saturday morning. "If we don't like the ground, we can wait two weeks and go to Arlington."

Baptize, who was assigned top weight of 122 pounds, comes off a 2 1/2-length victory in the June 30 Arlington Classic, run at the same distance as the Hall of Fame. He has been a model of consistency, with five victories in nine starts. Baptize has finished in the money every time he has run, but was 12 lengths in arrears when he was third on soft ground in a stakes at Lone Star Park in May.

Baptize is steady and sure. A dark bay colt with a white blaze and white on both his front and rear right legs, he tends to lay close to the pace, then punch it in. He seemed calm while being walked after a routine gallop Saturday morning. Asked what Baptize's personality was like, Mott, feeling perky, replied, "He doesn't dance as well as John Travolta, he doesn't sing as well as Tony Bennett, he doesn't run as fast as Gale Sayers, and he's not as funny as Bob Baffert."

Eight are entered besides Baptize, including Strategic Partner, who upset Baptize in the Crown Royal American Turf at Churchill Downs on May 4. John Velazquez, who rode Strategic Partner that day, gets back on board. Strategic Partner finished out of the money for the first time in his career in last month's Lexington Stakes at Belmont, but he raced wide, and might not have cared for 1 1/4 miles.

Saint Verre, a recent allowance winner here for trainer Shug McGaughey, was a late entry on the possibility that rain will move the Hall of Fame to the main track. Saint Verre has never raced on turf.

.