06/09/2010 11:00PM

Knock one off Mott's list


When you have won nearly 4,000 races, trained one of the most accomplished horses of all time, and have the distinction of being the youngest trainer elected into the Hall of Fame, it's hard to complain about what you haven't done.

So it was with Bill Mott when it came to the Triple Crown, the glamour series of Thoroughbred racing. For all his accomplishments, Mott was 0 for 13 combined in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes, among the best known races in the sport.

"I was prepared to never win one of those races if that's the way it turned out," said Mott, whose 3,979 career victories through Wednesday rank him ninth all-time in wins. "I don't think I was going to be in any agony over it if it didn't happen."

But last Saturday it did happen when Drosselmeyer scored a 13-1 upset by three-quarters of a length in the 142nd Belmont Stakes. Referencing the movie "The Bucket List" about two elderly men's wish list of things to do before they die, Mott said, "We can check this one off."

It wasn't so much that Mott didn't think he was capable of winning a Triple Crown race. It was whether he would receive the type of horse capable of winning one. Despite having trained a bevy of graded stakes winners on dirt - including Cigar, who won 16 consecutive races from 1994-96 - Mott's reputation was that of being a top-flight turf trainer. That may have hurt him with owners looking to get to the classics.

"Not in everybody's mind, but in some people's minds maybe we're better on the turf or we're more proven on the turf because we've won most every turf race," said Mott, who has won 340 graded stakes races. "We had some very good quality turf horses to work with. It's probably like everything, else it cycles around. Maybe we'll get a few dirt horses now. We've had some in the past but I wouldn't say necessarily the right ones."

A look at Mott's seven runners in the Kentucky Derby is a testament to that. Horses like Taylor's Special, Favorite Trick, Rock and Roll, and Court Vision specialized in races that were not 1 1/4 miles on dirt. Horses like Blue Burner and Z Humor didn't specialize in much of anything.

Hold Me Back, who Mott ran in the 2009 Kentucky Derby, was probably the trainer's best 3-year-old equipped to get the distance, but a premature move led to a 12th-place finish.

Mott said his biggest disappointment in the Triple Crown was learning that Majestic Warrior was not capable of getting a distance of ground. Majestic Warrior, a son of A.P. Indy, won the Grade 1 Hopeful in his second start at age 2. Mott remembers leaving Saratoga in September of 2007 thinking "if I ever got a Derby horse I got him now."

At 3, Majestic Warrior finished seventh in the Louisiana Derby and sixth in the Florida Derby.

"That was a tough pill to swallow finding out that he wouldn't go on," Mott said.

The summer of 2007, when Mott won more than a dozen 2-year-old races at Saratoga, may have awakened some to Mott's talent with young horses. Mott says for the last couple of years he has gotten about 50 2-year-olds sent to him.

"Every single year, in April or May, I think it's the best crop I ever had," said Mott, who in 1998 was elected into the Hall of Fame at age 45. "By the first of July, reality will settle in. Last year, there may have been a handful of bright spots, but it wasn't the best crop we ever had."

Elliot Walden, a former rival of Mott's who is now the racing manager for WinStar farm, owner of Drosselmeyer and Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, calls Mott "a complete horseman."

"People can be labeled and in his case it's unfair," Walden said. "I think he can win with any type of horse at any type of distance."

Walden did say that when it came time to divvy up Super Saver - who went to Todd Pletcher - and Drosselmeyer, one of the reasons Drosselmeyer went to Mott was because "he looked like more of a two-turn horse and that he'd come to hand a little later."

Drosselmeyer actually made it to the races six days earlier than Super Saver, finishing third in a 1 1/16-mile turf maiden race at Saratoga. Drosselmeyer would eventually win his first race in an off-the-turn, one-turn mile maiden race over Churchill Downs' dirt track.

Drosselmeyer's progression was slower than hoped, and he was unable to accrue enough earnings to make it to the Kentucky Derby. He finished second in the Dwyer Stakes at 3-5 four weeks before winning the Belmont.

According to Walden, Drosselmeyer will likely make his next start in the Jim Dandy at Saratoga on July 31, with potentially a match-up between him, Super Saver, and Preakness winner Lookin At Lucky coming together in the Travers Stakes on Aug. 28.

Between now and then, there will be much more for Mott to accomplish. He figures to have become the ninth trainer to win 4,000 races

One week after winning the Belmont, Mott will try to win another Grade 1 race on dirt with Unrivaled Belle, who after upsetting Rachel Alexandra in the La Troenne in April starts Saturday as the likely favorite in the Ogden Phipps at Belmont Park. Twenty-six years ago, Mott won this race with Heatherten, when the race was known as the Hempstead Handicap.

"If that last race was any indication, she looks pretty special," Mott said of Unrivaled Belle. "She sure ran a Grade 1 type race last time. I'm sure looking forward to that. I'm hopeful and optimistic."