07/30/2008 11:00PM

Mott aims to end Spa winless streak


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - On the seventh day of the 2007 Saratoga meet, Bill Mott won two races to move atop the trainers' standings. It was a lead he would never relinquish en route to his ninth Spa title, with a personal-best 27 wins.

On the eighth day of the 2008 Saratoga meet, the Mott-trained 2-year-old Gentleman Jeter finished sixth in a maiden race. It left Mott winless with his first 14 starters of the meet.

Mott couldn't even win a race on his birthday - something he historically does - because his 55th birthday fell last Tuesday, a dark day at Saratoga.

"Here it comes, the 'Mott hasn't won a race at the meet stories,'" Mott, half-kiddingly, said Thursday morning. "I've had horses run their [butts] off, probably as good as they could run."

Mott has 3 seconds and 5 thirds at this meet, including Dynaforce's runner-up finish in the Grade 1 Diana last Saturday and You and I Forever's narrow loss in the Henry Walton Stakes on Sunday. You and I Forever's effort was good enough to maybe earn him a start in the Travers on Aug. 23.

Meanwhile, Mott has several chances to get off the schneid this weekend. Friday, he had two runners, including Prussian in the Majestic Light Stakes. Saturday, Mott has four runners entered, including J Z Warrior in the Grade 1 Test Stakes. J Z Warrior won a maiden race by 10 lengths here last year and is coming off a four-length victory in the Dearly Precious Stakes at Monmouth Park on June 21.

While Mott knows it will be difficult for J Z Warrior to beat Indian Blessing - last year's juvenile filly champion - he is hopeful she can finish in the money.

"She's coming off a good race, we'll take a shot to get a little Grade 1 black type," said Mott, a two-time winner of the Test.

On Sunday, Mott will send out War Monger in the Grade 2 Fourstardave, a race Mott has won twice, including last year with Silver Tree. War Monger won the Sunshine Millions Turf at Gulfstream in January, but finished third in the Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita and 10th in the Maker's Mark at Keeneland.

Mott said War Monger slipped on the turf at Santa Anita.

"It was firm turf, but it rained and it was a little slippery, and his hind end scooted out from under him around the turn and he never got his action back," Mott said.

Mott said wet turf "and a premature move" proved War Monger's undoing in the Maker's Mark, where he was beaten eight lengths by Kip Deville.

Monday, Mott will start Adriano in the Grade 2, $150,000 National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame Stakes, a race Mott has won five times. Adriano, who finished 19th in the Kentucky Derby, finished fifth in the Colonial Turf Cup, run over a soft turf at Colonial Downs.

With a strong lineup this weekend, Mott figures to get a winner somewhere and quash any more "Mott hasn't won a race at the meet yet" stories.

Strong lineup for Flanders

There may not be a champion in the field, but there are just as many graded stakes winners entered in Saturday's $80,000 Flanders Stakes as there are in the Grade 1, $250,000 Test.

Among the eight horses entered in the Flanders, restricted to 3-year-old fillies who have not won a graded stakes this year, are Irish Smoke, winner of last year's Grade 1 Spinaway, and More Happy, winner of last year's Grade 2 Adirondack Stakes.

Irish Smoke went 2 for 2 at Saratoga last summer. After dismal efforts in the Alcibiades and Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, Irish Smoke was put through the auction ring by West Point Stables and Lewis Lakin, and she was purchased for $750,000 by a group headed by the International Equine Acquisitions Holdings Stables.

In two starts for her new owners and trainer Richard Dutrow Jr., Irish Smoke finished sixth in the Grade 3 Nassau County at Belmont and second in the Dearly Precious at Monmouth.

Dutrow said Irish Smoke didn't need to be on the lead early in the Nassau County like she was. He thought she ran a good race in the Dearly Precious and likes the way the filly is training coming into this.

More Happy, trained by Bob Baffert, has not run since finishing fifth to Irish Smoke in the Spinaway. Baffert said More Happy underwent throat surgery last fall, then got pneumonia during the winter in California.

"I had her ready to run in March, and she got real sick," Baffert said. "Now she's been working regularly. She's still extremely fast. I thought it would be a good spot to bring her back in."

Trainer Bobby Frankel sends out Lovely Isle, winner of two straight allowance races at Belmont Park. Lovely Isle finished second to Golden Doc A in the Grade 1 Las Virgenes during the winter.

Morakami won her debut up here last year and finished fourth in the Spinaway. She ended an eight-race losing streak with an allowance win at Churchill last out.

Indians Blessing's brother on card

A few hours before big sister Indian Blessing attempts to win her fourth Grade 1 stakes, Spaniard will attempt to win for the first time. Spaniard, by Candy Ride, is entered in a 6 1/2-furlong maiden race that goes as race 2.

Spaniard debuted at Hollywood Park in June, finishing sixth as the 4-5 favorite in a field of 10.

"He's not as quick" as Indian Blessing, Baffert said. "He might be grass or longer [on dirt]. Mike Smith thought he needed a bit more distance."

A full field of 11 was entered in the maiden race, including a pair of first-time starters - Tufao and Powerchord - trained by Mott. Powerchord is a half-sister to Fancy Fusaichi, recent winner of the Iowa Distaff.

Market Psychology out with ankle injury

Trainer Rick Violette had to scratch morning-line second choice Market Psychology out of Thursday's John Morrissey Stakes due to an ankle injury.

"He had filling in his left front ankle," Violette said. "I was not comfortable leading him over there. We didn't get to run him in [the Evan Shipman] and this was equally as good a spot. It's certainly not a fun part of the business making those phone calls."

The Evan Shipman was scheduled for Belmont on June 20, but that race was scrapped when that day's card was canceled due to the aftereffects of a transformer fire.

Maragh scores Wednesday hat trick

After finishing third at both the Aqueduct winter meet and Belmont spring session, jockey Rajiv Maragh was anxiously anticipating his first full summer upstate at Saratoga. But after winning only one race during the opening week of the meet, Maragh was understandably disappointed.

His disappointment didn't last long. Maragh, 22, proceeded to answer the bell for week two by riding three winners on Wednesday's card, one each for trainers Christophe Clement, Angel Penna Jr., and Gregory DiPrima.

"Things go in cycles in this business and not much went my way opening week," Maragh said between races Thursday. "I really wanted to make an impression up here, and having the kind of day I had yesterday is a big boost for me. It proves to people that I can win races at Saratoga too and makes me feel like the opportunities are out there even at a meet with a jockey colony as deep as this one. I've already proven I could win races at Belmont and Aqueduct, and I didn't see any reason why I couldn't do the same here."

Success on the New York circuit has come quickly for Maragh, a native of Jamaica, who also won his first Grade 1 race earlier this year, Keeneland's Ashland aboard Little Belle. He'll try to add to his Grade 1 resume later in the meet with Little Belle in the Alabama and the undefeated 2-year-old Cribnote in the Hopeful.

"Being a young guy, I really appreciate the position I'm in right now," Maragh said. "Everything happened so fast, and the future came real quickly. But once you start riding very good horses, you just hope everything will keep going the same way."

* The New York Racing Association's decision to increase purses in route races with big fields paid off handsomely for the connections of Borrowing Base on Thursday. The first-level allowance/optional claiming race initially had a purse of $68,000. The purse increased by $8,000 for each betting interest over six, and this field had 10 betting interests, resulting in a $32,000 increase and a $100,000 total purse.

* Mauralakana, winner of the New York Stakes and Sheepshead Bay Stakes in her last two starts, worked three furlongs in 37.88 seconds over Saratoga's training track Thursday. She is being pointed to the Grade 1 Beverly D. at Arlington Park on Aug. 9.

- additional reporting by Mike Welsch