05/15/2008 11:00PM

Mott filling Arlington stalls


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - For the first time in about 20 years, Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott will be running a string of horses out of Arlington Park, and not just with a handful of stalls set up to accept shippers from Mott's regular Midwest stable at Churchill Downs. Mott has 24 stalls on the Arlington backstretch, almost all of them already are full, and the Mott stable figures to be a regular participant in Arlington races this summer.

"We needed a place for a few horses to go, and it seemed like Arlington had worked for us before," Mott said.

It worked quite well in 1985, when Mott tied for leading trainer with Bert Sonnier. Now, the Arlington option is a viable one for a stable with enough horses to separate between dirt and synthetic-track runners. Last summer, Mott kept some horses training over Keeneland's Polytrack, but horses of that sort will simply spend the season in Chicago this year.

"I thought at least we've got racing going on up there," said Mott, who is coming off one of the best years of his long career. He won 156 races and had stable earnings of almost $10 million in 2007.

Mott's presence comes one year after Todd Pletcher took a full barn of stalls here, and the presence of both powerful stables represents a boon to the local circuit. While neither string has top-shelf horses, the "B" team for either Mott or Pletcher is a good fit for the Arlington racing program.

Rudolph Brisset, a Frenchman who has worked for Mott about one year, is overseeing the Arlington stable, which contains several of the same horses Brisset cared for during the Fair Grounds meet this past winter.

"He's attentive, gallops some of his own, and is an extremely good hand on a horse," Mott said of Brisset. "He takes extra time with those that need some extra attention."

Ironically, the year that Mott actually stables at Arlington is the year he has no horse to run in Saturday's Arlington Classic, a race Mott has won three times and in which he regularly participates.

Geroux joins Arlington jockey colony

The Mott stable not only has a French assistant, but some of its horses will have a French jockey when they race here this summer.

Florent Geroux, 21, has taken up residence in the local jockey colony, looking to advance a riding career that was interrupted by injury last fall. Geroux, the leading apprentice rider in France during 2005, has won 5 races from 31 starts in limited U.S. action.

Geroux went to Southern California to work for trainer Patrick Biancone in winter 2006, he said during the races Thursday at Arlington. The plan was for Geroux to play understudy to Biancone's main rider, Julien Leparoux, who like Geroux hails from the town of Chantilly. But that plan barely got off the ground, when Geroux injured his wrist and back on opening day of the 2007 Keeneland fall meet. He only began riding again this spring at Turfway Park.

Geroux, who grew up with horses as the son of a jockey and trainer, said he plans to ride the meet at Arlington and has retained the services of jockey agent Britt McGehee, who also represents the Irish-born rider James Graham.

Complicated jockey-fee scale in Chicago

Thursday morning, Arlington programs being handed out to horsemen at the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association trailer on the Arlington backstretch included a sheet of paper outlining a highly complex new jockey-fee scale in place here.

Several riders, including 10-pound apprentice Brandon Meier, as well as Ramsey Zimmerman and Geroux, are riding under the old Chicago fee scale, which paid riders $45 for a horse that finished third or worse in races with the lowest purses. Another dozen names are included in a group that is riding for the new, higher fee scale plus a percentage of purse earnings for horses finishing second through fifth. This group gets no less than $75 and as much as $135 for a horse finishing worse than fifth, plus 2 percent of their mount's earnings for a finish between second and fifth place.

The bulk of the riders here are being paid under a graduated fee scale with a losing-mount fee no less than $80 and no more than a flat fee of $125.

Jockeys Rene Douglas and Earlie Fires are, according to the handout, "riding for a special scale," with no figures listed by their names.

All the different scales have permutations for different placings in races with different values. In all, the system is complicated, but by naming a jockey on their horse at entry time, an owner is contractually obligated to pay the jockey under their established fee scale.

Father and son meet on track

Brandon Meier, a 10-pound apprentice rider who won a race Sunday on the only horse he has ever ridden in a race, will be matched against his father, Randy Meier, for the first time in the 11th race Sunday.

Brandon, 19, debuted with a win aboard a Wayne Catalano-trained horse named Houseboat on Sunday, but had no mounts here early this racing week. Meier overcame trouble during his race to win - and even more serious trouble before the race began. Houseboat threw her head back, striking Meier in the face and causing significant injury to his mouth. But 53-year-old Randy Meier has come back from a long, long string of injuries, and his son barely missed a beat after his first racing mishap.

* Arlington expects trainer Christophe Clement to ship the promising 3-year-old grass horse Sporting Art here for the Arlington Classic, one of three stakes races on the Saturday program.