Updated on 09/16/2011 7:22AM

Motion on brink of joining elite


STANTON, Del. - Trainer Graham Motion was to have been interviewed by a Philadelphia television station Tuesday morning for his upcoming appearance in Saturday's Preakness Stakes. But, hockey's Philadelphia Flyers announced the hiring of a new coach, and the station canceled.

A quiet, unassuming Englishman training in the mid-Atlantic region, Motion kept his low profile intact for at least one more day. But his cover may be about to be blown.

In the 10 years since he has been training, Motion has developed one of the top barns on the Maryland-Delaware-New Jersey circuit, winning at a solid 20-percent clip. He is one big horse or major race victory from cracking into the upper echelon of the sport.

Equality, winner of the Tampa Bay Derby, could be the horse and Saturday's 127th Preakness Stakes the race.

"I think we have a legitimate horse in the race," Motion said outside his Delaware Park barn on a crisp, sun- splashed Tuesday morning. "I think he has a legitimate shot to hit the board and/or win it. I don't think we'd be running in it if we didn't feel we were legitimate in the race."

Motion quickly backtracks, not wanting to sound cocky as to predict victory. But, he believes he's taking his best shot at winning a classic.

"I don't know that he's that kind of horse, but I wouldn't be surprised if he is," said Motion, who will turn 38 on May 22.

Motion, a son of a bloodstock agent, was born and raised in Herringswell, England, a tiny village outside Newmarket. He honors his hometown by calling his barn Herringswell Stables.

Motion came to the U.S. at age 16 and has been around good horses most of his life. Upon finishing high school in Connecticut, Motion took his first racetrack job in America with Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard, for whom he worked five years. Among the horses he was around were champions Storm Cat and Flatterer.

After a year working in France for Jonathan Pease, Motion returned to the U.S. and went to work for Bernie Bond, the kingpin of 2-year-olds in Maryland in the late 1980's and early 1990's. When Bond retired, Motion took over and had his first stakes horse in Gala Spinaway.

Training Gala Spinaway was "my first big break," Motion said. His second came when he got to train the second-string horses for Joe Allbritton's Lazy Lane Farms. He took Lazy Lane down the Triple Crown trail in 1998 with Chilito, who won the Flamingo, before finishing 11th in the Kentucky Derby and sixth in the Belmont. Motion also trained Bay Eagle, who ran eighth in last year's Preakness, for Lazy Lane.

About four years ago, Clifford Barry, the racing manager for Josephine Abercrombie's Pin Oak Stable, suggested sending horses to Motion. This may turn out to be Motion's biggest break.

Of the four trainers Pin Oak uses, Motion gets the pick of the litter. That has included Broken Vow, Confessional, and Alternate, recent winner of the Go for Wand Stakes at Delaware. And, of course, Equality.

Motion's stable has increased its earnings every year from $396,724 in 1993 to $3.16 million last year. He won 17 stakes in 2001, led by Broken Vow, who won four, including the Grade 2 Iselin Handicap at Monmouth Park.

"We're very, very pleased," said Abercrombie, who bred 1976 Preakness winner Elocutionist. "He's a great trainer, and a very nice person. He's laid back, very modest he doesn't strut around."

Motion wasn't bragging on Equality early on. After winning his maiden in his third try, Equality shipped to Gulfstream for the winter. He finished a well-beaten fifth in an entry-level allowance race on Jan. 9, and Motion suggested trying him on the turf.

But the Feb. 9 turf race came off the turf. And even when Equality romped to a 16 1/2-length victory in the race, Motion wasn't impressed.

"I thought he beat a suspect group," Motion said. "It wasn't until the next day when I heard everybody talking about the race - even Allen Jerkens told me how impressive it was - did it get me thinking."

The conservative Motion felt the Tampa Bay Derby would be a logical next step. Equality had to break from the outside post in the race. He broke badly, was hustled into the race, and was caught very wide entering the first turn. He assumed command midway down the backstretch and won by 2 1/2 lengths. His final time of 1:43.60 was just :00.20 off the track record.

Equality made his next start in the Aventura, a race that subbed for the defunct Flamingo, on April 6 at Gulfstream Park. Again, Equality did not break well and found himself boxed in down the backside. He was shuffled back on the turn, came running and was defeated by 1 1/4 lengths by Marasca.

Motion said the loss might have been a blessing in disguise. A win, and Motion would have been compelled to run in the Derby. This way, he freshened the horse up and pointed for the Preakness.

"We tried to the right thing by the horse not going to the Derby," Motion said. "This is the more conservative way. We tried to do the right thing by the horse and we can always regroup afterward, but I think at this point we're doing the right thing by taking a shot."