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Ron The Greek Ready for Oaklawn Handicap

Ron The Greek wins the Santa Anita Handicap.

Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott is doing his part to rejuvenate the scene for older horses to the stature it was when he brought Cigar to Oaklawn in the midst of his electrifying streak in 1995 by returning to Saturday’s $400,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) with Ron the Greek, winner of the prestigious Santa Anita Handicap (G1) in his last start.

 

Owned by Brous Stable, Wachtel Stable and by breeder Jack T. Hammer, the 5-year-old arrives Wednesday from Palm Beach, Florida where he worked Monday morning at Payson Park.

 

With a 6-for-17 record, the son of Full Mandate had been something of a project for three previous top-flight trainers before arriving in Mott’s stable last summer at Saratoga. Since the switch, Ron the Greek has won three of his last four races including ‘the Big Cap’ by 3 ½ lengths.

 

That big performance lined him up to share starting highweight honors in the Oaklawn Handicap with Hymn Book, winner of the Donn Handicap (G1) at Gulfstream Park in his last start. Both carry 118 lbs., and that’s a two-pound pick-up from Ron the Greek’s last race.

 

“That seems fair,” said Mott Monday morning, who added the horse would ship Wednesday after his half-mile breeze in 49 1/5. “You would expect to pick that up. Of course, this will be a different situation. It’s always a challenge with a new group of horses, a new surface and a new trip to get there. But that’s what they’re supposed to do when you run in these races.”

 

Mott spent time early in his career training at Oaklawn before moving on to great heights as the conditioner of Cigar, Geri and Theatrical, Fantasy Stakes and Apple Blossom winner Escena and champion Ajina and lately Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic winner Royal Delta and Belmont Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Drosselmeyer. His big stars travelled the globe, and he thinks back to the year Cigar arrived at Oaklawn not yet recognized as the superstar he would become by winning 16 straight races over two years.

 

“It’s actually too bad that (the Oaklawn Handicap) still isn’t a Grade 1,” said Mott. “When we came there with Cigar, it was a similar situation with horses coming together from all over. The Santa Anita Handicap winner was in there (Urgent Request), Concern was in there and a really good local horse (Silver Goblin). It was a really nice amount of talent.”

 

Another Mott trainee will help kick off the Racing Festival of the South Wednesday as Off Limits makes her first start in a Graded stakes in the $300,000 Fantasy. The WinStar Farm filly was second in the Busher Stakes Feb. 25 and can put herself in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) picture with a big effort.

 

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