03/16/2005 1:00AM

Stakes double puts Mott in spotlight

Bill Denver/EquiPhotos
Old Forester upsets the Canadian Turf to solidify Bill Mott's grip on second place in the trainer standings.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Bill Mott was in town for his weekly visit to inspect the troops as well as to watch several members of his Gulfstream-based stable breeze over the racetrack Wednesday morning. Mott was also accepting congratulations for pulling off a stakes double last Sunday when he sent out Old Forester to upset the $100,000 Canadian Turf Handicap and Sand Springs for a narrow victory over Potra Fabulous in the Grade 3, $100,000 Honey Fox.

The two stakes wins gave Mott his 15th and 16th victories of the meeting, keeping him safely in second position in the trainer standings behind Todd Pletcher. Mott, a nine-time Gulfstream training champion, said he's quite pleased by his stable's accomplishments.

"We've had a good meet," said Mott. "I think we've done extremely well with what we've run so far. The name of the game is to make the best of what you've got, and I think we've accomplished that to this point of the season."

The public may have overlooked both Old Forester and Sand Springs, allowing Old Forester to go off at 11-1 in the Canadian Turf and Sand Springs at 5-1 in the Honey Fox. But Mott said he was not surprised that his two turf specialists ran so well.

"They're both very good horses and I expected them both to run good races," said Mott. "The one problem with Sand Springs is that she's a very temperamental filly, and sometimes you don't know what to expect. But she's also very talented, too, when she's on her game."

While Mott is perhaps best known for his work with turf horses, he also has a promising 3-year-old main-track performer on his hands in the steadily improving Around the Cape. A son of Carson City owned by Live Oak Plantation, Around the Cape is coming off a second-place finish behind the undefeated Lost in the Fog in the Grade 2 Swale.

"I was really happy with his race in the Swale," said Mott, "especially considering all the hoopla surrounding Lost in the Fog. For now, I think I'm going to keep Around the Cape sprinting and I'll look at either the Lafayette at Keeneland or the Bay Shore at Aqueduct for his next start."

Both races are Grade 3 stakes. The seven-furlong Bay Shore will be run April 9, a day before the six-furlong Lafayette.

Mott will likely begin sending some of his horses up north within the next several weeks but said he plans to continue to make his presence felt here.

"We'll leave plenty of horses here right to the end," said Mott. "We're overloaded with turf horses, and I'm sure the turf course will get plenty of use during the final weeks of the meet."

Hough takes shot with Criminal Mind

Sun King will be a prohibitive favorite in Saturday's Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby. But trainer Stan Hough is planning to take him on with Criminal Mind, who has not started since finishing fourth in the Grade 3 Holy Bull on Feb. 5.

"Obviously, Sun King will be really tough to beat, but his presence should keep the field down and I just think the track at Tampa is more suitable and beneficial to my colt's style of running," Hough said. "The track just seems to be speed-favoring at Gulfstream this winter; speed certainly was holding well the day we ran in the Holy Bull, when my horse made a run but then finished evenly. In his first race this winter, he took all the worst of it and still finished second behind a good horse [Harlington]."

Criminal Mind was switched to Hough's barn this winter after making five 2-year-old starts at Woodbine, where he won his maiden and finished third in the Grey Breeders' Cup.

"I think he's a nice little horse who will go the distance, and can do some good if we spot him around," said Hough. "Hopefully he'll make a run and get at least a piece of it on Saturday."

Hough also reported that Contante, fifth behind Eddington in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap on March 5, bled in the race and will be out of action at least through the end of the meet.

"He might have had a little lung infection and we're working on the problem now," said Hough. "It will take him a little while to get over it, but he'll be fine. I'll just wait until we get back up north until planning his next start."

Toll Taker may head to Ashland

Trainer Tim Hills said he will pass Saturday's Tampa Oaks with Toll Taker to await the Grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland on April 9. Toll Taker won the Suncoast Stakes, Tampa's traditional prep for the Oaks, on Feb. 26.

"I think bringing her back in three weeks might be too soon," said Hills. "The Bourbonette or the Ashland are our two options, and right now I would say we're leaning towards the Ashland. It's a big jump up, but I don't think there are very many 3-year-old fillies who can go long on dirt and the prospect of placing in a Grade 1 race is very tempting."