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17 in a Row

Posted by Brian Mulligan on 6/14/2010 2:13:53 PM

17 IN A ROW

To move past legendary names like Cigar and Triple Crown winner Citation to win her 17th in a row, Zenyatta had to reach back for all she had in order to collar St. Trinians in the Grade 1 Vanity Handicap last Sunday.

The Queen was 2 and a half-lengths off the lead with a furlong to go but eventually wore down her key rival in the final 2 jumps. The outcome was far from determined until that point, as it appeared St. Trinians was digging in and would hold off the champ, but it was not to be.

The scary part is that Zenyatta’s connections think she will move up from this race. Her rider Mike Smith: “What's amazing about this race is that I think she needed the race. I think she had an easy race first time out and she got a really easy race at Oaklawn. I think this will put her back to the [form of the Breeders' Cup] Classic and maybe better, I hope. I think this race will really move her forward.”

For the record, she came from 11 lengths back after going 5 wide to post the winning time of 1:49.01 for the 9 furlongs.


THE MOTT FACTOR

Although Bill Mott’s trainee Drosselmeyer surprised at 13-1 in the Belmont Stakes that was not Mott’s first trip to the rodeo and he had some interesting things for bettors to digest in a recent chat courtesy of the New York Racing Association.

Before we get into what works for Mott and some of his ideas about how he gets horses up to winning races, a review of how he got to the big stage is warranted.

Mott started out training thoroughbred horses at age 15, and won a stakes while he was still in high school in South Dakota.

He learned the early lessons from some of the best in the business, by becoming first, an exercise rider, then, an assistant trainer for legendary Hall of Fame trainer and one of my personal heroes Jack Van Berg.

Mott himself became the 2nd youngest trainer ever to enter the Hall of Fame.

In a 15-year span, he won 9 training titles at Saratoga, one of the toughest meets in the world, and added 10 and 9 at Belmont and Gulfstream to prove he was not anyway biased.

National prominence came to him as he guided Cigar to an amazing 16-race win streak with the icing on the cake the $5 million score in the Dubai World Cup.

Asked some very serious questions in the NYRA piece, Mott was honest and telling. He admitted that although he started like most everybody else as a claming trainer, he now generally handles homebreds that are well pedigreed.

He tipped his hand about his juveniles this summer when mentioning he has 50 2-year-olds in training at Saratoga right now and that he is optimistic that they will be firing by August.

Mott intimated that speed of workouts is not as important as knowing what a normal work pattern would be for a particular horse and to pay strict attention if that runner deviates, one way or the other, from that steady pattern.

On the body language of runners, Mott suggested for bettors to look for a horse who is alert and looks good and worry when the horse gets wet and sweaty. He cautioned that on warm days, every horse will sweat and you want to see some sweat on them so you know they're cooling off a little but you don't want to see a horse that's dripping wet because usually those horses are showing some anxiety or nervousness about competition, and in many cases won't fire their best shot that way.

His three most important handicapping factors that he focuses on are distance, track surface and then the level of competition and that the last factor will take care of itself if the first two factors are properly addressed.

So what are the areas that Mott has excelled at over the decades?

He gets horses to fire fresh off long layoffs to the tune of nearly 25% and he is more potent with 2nd timers than debuters.

Equally adept going sprint to route, or cutting back, when Mott takes the blinkers it generally signals an improvement is in store.

In the last 5 years when his runners have gone dirt to turf he has hit at 22% with a median winning price of 3-1 and almost 50% of those runners have been in the money.

He has hit just over one in 5 going Maiden Special Weight to maiden claiming over that same time frame and over 50% of those runners were in the money.

Bettors have to be careful when looking at his foreign shippers, as he is only 4 for 29 in that category the last several years with a small return on investment.

Lastly, when the money is down on the Mott runners, it has been a very good sign as 47% of his odds-on runners the last 5 years won and nearly 80% of them have been in the money.

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