08/08/2007 11:00PM

Mott finds Spa a fountain of youth


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - To the list of famous trainers of 2-year-olds at Saratoga, like D. Wayne Lukas, Todd Pletcher, and Nick Zito, you can now add Bill Mott.

Yes, that Bill Mott.

Long known for his excellence with older horses, such as Cigar, Mott this summer has struck early and often with 2-year-olds. In the first 13 days of the Saratoga meeting, he won four races for maiden 2-year-olds, including with the colt Z Humor on Wednesday. Mott came into Thursday's card having won 10 races overall, three more than Pletcher, who has won the last five training titles at Saratoga.

If Mott maintains his lead through Labor Day, he will win his ninth Saratoga title. But Mott said Thursday morning that he is more interested in developing his outstanding crop of 2-year-olds than taking down another meet title. It's not that he decided to focus more on younger horses. It's just that more came his way.

"I had a big chance this year with the horses I got," Mott said.

Three of Mott's Saratoga winners are owned by Ahmed Zayat, whose Maimonides, trained by Bob Baffert, was all the rage winning his race debut on Wednesday. But Z Humor, also owned by Zayat, won the other division of that maiden race by 5 3/4 lengths.

"He had worked well every time," Mott said. "Being by Distorted Humor, you know there's the possibility he could really run first time out. They're precocious, but they stay on and make good 3- and 4-year-olds.

"He was one of those horses you never knew was around, because he never put a foot wrong, never had an issue. The worst thing he had was a snotty nose. That's it."

Mott said he did not know where Z Humor would run next. "We've got to see what they do with the other horse," he said, referring to Maimonides. "I'd imagine they'd like to split them up."

Mott also has won 2-year-old races for Zayat with the Exchange Rate filly Zee Zee and the Harlan's Holiday filly J Z Warrior, who romped by 10 lengths. His other 2-year-old winner was the royally bred A.P. Indy colt Majestic Warrior, who cruised home 3 3/4 lengths the best. He is owned by George Steinbrenner's Kinsman Stables.

As for leading the meet, Mott mixed metaphors when joking, "Every dog has their 15 minutes of fame."

"Seriously, it feels good," he said. "But I hate worrying about it. I lose my personality too much. It's gratifying to see these babies running well, seeing them run as well as we thought they might.

"But trying to win a meet title, focusing on that, really is selfish. You're just making yourself look good. You've got to go on an individual basis. If I get too worried about the meet title, I train bad. You start making mistakes, sliding in horses to win races. Rather than run in a listed stake a Monmouth, you might justify running here, even if that's not necessarily the right thing to do for that horse. I know. I've done it."

Mott has another Zayat 2-year-old making his debut on Saturday, the Thunder Gulch colt Saada, who runs in the second race.

Ready's Echo creates a buzz

Z Humor won the race, but it was the runner-up, Ready's Echo, who had the crowd buzzing after the sixth on Wednesday. Ready's Echo fell far, far behind the field early in the 5 1/2-furlong race. He trailed by 26 lengths after a quarter-mile, was a little more than 20 lengths behind after three furlongs, yet closed furiously to finish second.

"I liked the way he finished, obviously," said Pletcher - who trains Ready's Echo, a son of More Than Ready - at his barn Thursday morning. "It's the first part we'll have to work on. I wasn't surprised he was outfooted a little bit, but I didn't think he'd be that far back."

Day by day with Accountforthegold

A game-time decision will be made as to whether the top New York-bred horse Accountforthegold runs on Saturday in the $80,000 Saratoga Sunrise, on Sunday in the $100,000 West Point Handicap, or is scratched, trainer Gary Contessa said Thursday morning.

Accountforthegold was entered in the Saratoga Sunrise, and will be entered in the West Point, Contessa said. But his status was not to be determined until being treated for a quarter crack on Friday morning, Contessa said.

"I'd say he's 80 percent sure to run," Contessa said. "He's got a small quarter crack, and we won't know until my patch man, Ian McKinlay, gets in there and works on it. If it's dry, and he can get a patch on, he'll run. If there's more of a problem, he won't. This happened in his race before last, and he won the race. He's training great. I'll leave it up to McKinlay."

Accountforthegold has won two statebred stakes this year, the Kings Point Handicap at Aqueduct and the Gander at Belmont. The Saratoga Sunrise is at 1 1/8 miles on dirt. The West Point is the same distance on turf.

"The only way he'd run in the West Point is if we get nine inches of rain here on Saturday and they move it off the turf," Contessa said.

Contessa entered Building New Era in the Saratoga Sunrise, and said he would enter Classic Fran in the West Point.

Trippi's Storm thriving on turf

After Trippi's Storm failed to win for $32,000 maiden claiming on dirt, trainer Stanley Hough did what all good trainers do - switch surfaces.

Since putting Trippi's Storm on turf, the gelding has 3 wins and 2 seconds and has a puncher's chance to upset the likes of English Channel and Better Talk Now in Saturday's Grade 1 Sword Dancer Invitational.

"He wouldn't break sprinting," Hough said Thursday morning. "Then he'd made a big run and hang, so it didn't look like two turns was the answer. When I worked him on the grass he really worked well, and now he comes out no problem and gets right into the game."

Though Trippi's Storm wasn't facing any bears when he won his first three turf races Hough said he showed "he was going to be okay, because he'd get into every jackpot he could."

In his two stakes tries, Trippi's Storm finished second to Silver Tree and Sunriver. Silver Tree won the Fourstardave last weekend, and Sunriver could win Saturday's Arlington Million.

In the race against Silver Tree, Trippi's Storm actually made the lead when he took off early on Garrett Gomez. Still, Hough was happy with the way the gelding hung tough and continued on, getting beat just a half-length.

Hough, who went winless with 19 starters last year at Saratoga, is 3 for 18 at this meet. Sargent Seattle, who won at first asking here on opening day, is being pointed to Thursday's Grade 2, $150,000 Saratoga Special. Twenty Eight Hours, who finished seventh in the Sanford, came out of that race with a chip in his knee that required surgery. He will be out until next year, Hough said.

* More Happy, a Baffert invader from California who is scheduled to run in next week's Adirondack Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, zipped five furlongs from the gate Thursday morning in 59.17 seconds. Baffert also worked E Z Warrior, who suffered his first loss in the Bing Crosby Handicap at Del Mar on July 29. He went a half-mile in 49.23 seconds.

* Tishmeister ($7.40) scored a front-running 1 1/2-length victory over Don't Mind Me in the $150,000 Statue of Liberty Stakes for 3-year-old fillies sired by New York-based stallions. Western Sweep was third. Twistaway was scratched after breaking through the gate and running off before the start. Laurentide, the favorite, also came through the gate prematurely, but was allowed to compete. Javier Castellano rode Tishmeister for trainer Tim Ritvo. She was timed in 1:50.16 for 1 1/8 miles on good turf.

- additional reporting by David Grening