Kentucky Derby 2019 Daily: Mott’s crop a product of patience

March 19, 2019 05:17pm

Welcome to Horse Racing Nation’s Kentucky Derby Daily, which will each day leading up to the May 4 race at Churchill Downs detail all the news and notes related to contenders in one convenient space.

Trainer Bill Mott had some “big, tall, rangy” individuals come into his care last summer knowing they wouldn’t grow far enough into their frames to race until at least the fall. And if you’re a Hall of Fame trainer with a barn full of other stars — to name two, Elate and Yoshida had big stakes spots left to try that year — patience can be easier to come by.

So colts that would eventually come to be known as Kentucky Derby 2019 hopefuls Tacitus and Country House were brought along slowly. Mott skipped Saratoga unveilings, debuting Tacitus on Oct. 4 at Belmont Park and Country House two days later.

“It seems like as they got closer to racing, they started showing a little more,” Mott said Tuesday on an NTRA national media teleconference. “Of course, they showed us some things in their first two races.”

By Tapit, Tacitus broke his maiden second out, then came off the bench March 9 to win the Tampa Bay Derby (G2), securing his spot in the Kentucky Derby field. He’s pointing to a return to New York for the Wood Memorial (G2) as a final prep.


Country House, who waited until his third start to win, got going with a route race on the grass. Mott wanted to try the surface, but mainly honed in on the 1 1/16-mile distance. He finished ninth.

The Lookin At Lucky colt ran second when switched to the dirt, then returned as a 3-year-old to also win off a layoff, circling a field of fellow maidens at Gulfstream Park after he blew the break.

Country House enters Saturday’s Louisiana Derby (G2) — his own opportunity to qualify for the first leg of the Triple Crown — off a runner-up in Fair Grounds’ Risen Star (G2).

“He made a nice run leaving the half-mile pole,” Mott said of that Feb. 16 race won by Louisiana Derby favorite War of Will. “He picked the field up very easily apart from the eventual winner. He got past everyone, and then he started lugging in before he was able to lap up on the eventual winner.

“It was a good race. I think it was a big move forward from his maiden race. I really can’t tell you what cause the bearing in — or the lugging in — but we’re hopeful that he’s not going to do it again. I mean he hasn’t done it in his training where it’s something we’ve had to deal with on a regular basis. That’s the only time I’ve seen it.”

Country House will break from the No. 8 post in a field of 11 under jockey Luis Saez. He last worked Sunday in company with Dubai World Cup (G1) contender Yoshida at Payson Park Training Center in Florida.

“Country House tends to be a little bit of a lazy horse in his workouts, and both horses were, of course, due to breeze,” Mott said. “They breezed the week before, and I thought they went very well together. It seems like Yoshida was able to kind of push Country House along a little bit and give him good company.”

Mott’s third shot to lock a horse into the prospective Derby field follows a week after the Louisiana Derby when Hidden Scroll returns with new jockey Javier Castellano in the Florida Derby (G1). With Joel Rosario in the irons, the Hard Spun colt posted a 104 Beyer Speed Figure on debut, then burned out on the pace of the Fountain of Youth (G2) when chasing a longshot leader.


“I see no reason why if there was a hot pace you that you couldn’t take him back a little bit, or you could put him up on the lead. It just depends on whatever the pace is,” Mott said. “The only thing is, like any horse, those decisions have to be made the first sixteenth of a mile out of the gate.

“You can’t make the decision when you head down the backside. You’ve got to make that decision going into the first turn. That’s a decision for the rider to make.”

Mott has one other 3-year-old of note, Mucho, who won his 3-year-old debut on March 1 in allowance optional claiming company at Gulfstream Park. That son of Blame is expected to proceed on the Derby trail, instead pointing to Aqueduct’s Bay Shore (G3) on April 6 at seven furlongs.

Derby links

 Notable from this America’s Best Racing interview with owner Rick Porter: He tells Tom Pedulla that training up to the Kentucky Derby is one of three options for the Rebel Stakes winner.

 Speaking of Omaha Beach, he and fellow split Rebel contender Long Range Toddy remain playable in the latest look at Kentucky Derby odds.

 War of Will has two big stakes wins on his resume this season, but no outstanding speed figures. Handicapper Reinier Macatangay argues why that’s not a concern.

 Under the Allied Racing Stables banner, Kentucky native Chester Thomas campaigns two similar Louisiana Derby contenders who “couldn’t be doing any better.”

In case you missed it…

Monday’s Derby Daily report featured opinions from Kentucky Derby Media Poll voters on their preferences between Game Winner and Improbable leaving the Rebel Stakes. Said NBC Sports’ Randy Moss: Even in defeat, they “ran winning races off the layoff.”


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Horse Racing Nation's Kentucky Derby daily blog counts down to the May 4, 2019, race at Churchill Downs with a once-a-day update on all things Derby. Get the latest news and chatter, workout reports and a look at fields for upcoming preps all in once place.

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