08/14/2009 12:00AM

Mott's pair figures tough in Hall of Fame

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Barbara D. Livingston
Trainer Bill Mott has won the Hall of Fame five times.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - The field for Friday's Grade 2, $150,000 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes at Saratoga is so contentious that it might be best to follow a tried and true handicapping method that has worked well over the years.

Bet Bill Mott.

The only problem is that Mott - a five-time winner of this race - sends two of the 10 horses entered in this 1 1/8-mile turf race at Saratoga. Both Courageous Cat and Al Khali are more than capable.

Mott last won this race in 2006 with After Market, a full brother to Courageous Cat. A son of Storm Cat out of the Grade 1 mare Tranquility Lake, Courageous Cat has won his last two starts, including the A Gift Stakes at Belmont Park on July 19, where he rated off another horse after being passed early in the race. He held off a late run from Al Khali, who has since been sold and transferred to Mott.

Speaking of Courageous Cat's performance that day, Mott said, "They took a run at him late, but he showed up. He rated and kicked on. It was the first race that he ever looked the part."

Mott was pleasantly surprised to receive Al Khali after he was purchased by a partnership of Brous Stable and Wachtel Stable.

"He's a nice, big, leggy strong horse; kind of a neat horse," Mott said. "He's trained well here."

Sal the Barber, trained by Christophe Clement, is one of many leading contenders in the field. Sal the Barber has two wins on turf, a maiden win at Gulfstream from off the pace and a front-running score in the Don Jack Stakes at Belmont. He is 2 for 2 at the Hall of Fame distance of 1 1/8 miles.

"I was very impressed by him the other day," Clement said. "I don't think he stole the race, I think he won going away. [Ramon] Dominguez will have different options according to pace."

Straight Story was beaten a head by Battle of Hastings in both the Colonial Turf Cup and Virginia Derby in his last two starts. The third-place finisher from the Virginia Derby, Take the Points, came back to win the Grade 1 Secretariat last weekend at Arlington.

"The form from those Virginia races is pretty strong," said trainer Alan Goldberg, who hopes that trend continues.

El Crespo, Lime Rickey, Conservative, and Midnight Mischief also are contenders on their best.