11/07/2001 1:00AM

Mott listening for classic possibilities


ELMONT, N.Y. - Billy Mott with a prospect for the spring classics?

It hasn't happened often. Mott was elected to the Hall of Fame through the success of such handicap horses as Cigar, Heatherten, and Sefa's Beauty, and such grass stars as Theatrical, Fraise, Paradise Creek, Yagli, and many others. His three Kentucky Derby horses - Taylor's Special, Favorite Trick, and Rock 'n Roll - were not bred to stay classic distances.

There is a similar question about Listen Here, the undefeated Gulch colt who is now 3 for 3 after his victory in the recent Nashua Mile, and people are beginning to stare.

"He is a strong-made colt with a huge hip," Mott said the other day. "You don't usually think of such horses as stayers. But he has made steady progress. He won at Saratoga going 5 1/2 furlongs, and won at Belmont at seven furlongs. He improved from his first race to his second, and showed more improvement in the Nashua.

"I'd like to find out if he has distance limitations, and I'll probably start him on Nov. 24. It will be either the $200,000 Remsen at Aqueduct going nine furlongs or in the $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes the same afternoon at Churchill Downs, going a mile and a sixteenth."

Listen Here races for Chicago's Lewis Lakin, breeder Kim Nardelli of Lexington, Ky., and her brother Rodney. The Nardellis first offered Listen Here as a yearling at Saratoga, but he failed to make the reserve of $140,000 and they took him home. He was then offered as a 2-year-old at the Fasig-Tipton sale at Calder Race Course. He worked a quarter-mile in 21.20 seconds prior to the sales, the fastest time ever to be recorded there. He developed a splint, however, was sore in the sales ring, and failed to make his reserve of $125,000.

Lakin, who has horses with Mott, purchased a controlling interest in Listen Here and the colt shipped to New York. So far the story is perfect.

Improve rather than expand

Racing commands public attention in the spring with the Triple Crown classics, and again in the fall with the Breeders' Cup program. Should racing consider another major event for the summer months to fill in the gap?

"No," says John Gaines, who conceived the Breeders' Cup.

"We don't need more spectacular events. Racing needs more effective marketing of the spectacular events we do have and the Breeders' Cup in particular," Gaines said. "Judging from the television ratings, I wonder if the public is paying attention. The hiring of Host Communications to take over the marketing of the Breeders' Cup is, in my opinion, a step in the right direction."