Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott's good weekend continued Sunday with strong works by Breeders' Cup World Championships contenders Royal Delta (Ladies Classic) and To Honor and Serve (Classic).
Palides Investments' Royal Delta, winner of the Alabama (GI) and runner-up to Classic contender Havre de Grace in the Beldame (GI), produced Mott's biggest smile as she worked four furlongs in :47.80 under exercise rider Rudolph Brisset. The 3-year-old daughter of Empire Maker was caught in fractional splits of 12:80, :25, :36.20 and galloped out five furlongs in 1:00.40 and six furlongs in 1:14.40.
“If you didn't like that, you don't like training horses,” Mott said. “That's what you're looking for. You just dream of getting up in the morning and coming out and seeing something like that. She went great.”
“The majority of a trainer's job is to just to try to not do anything foolish and keep the horse out of trouble. It just makes you feel good when you see them go well and everything went right. I feel good about it and I feel good about the way she's doing.”
After his glowing comments about Royal Delta, the Courier-Journal's Jennie Rees told Mott that trainer J. Larry Jones had confirmed a short time earlier that Fox Hill Farm's Woodward (GI) and Beldame winner Havre de Grace – a leading candidate for horse of the year – would be entered Monday only for a run against males in Saturday's $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic.
That elicited another grin from the all-time leading trainer at Churchill Downs.
“Hey, I think they made a great move,” Mott said with a chuckle.
The work by Royal Delta ranked tied the fifth-fastest of 58 moves at the distance.
Mott was also very happy with the move by Live Oak Plantation's To Honor and Serve, who is coming off an impressive victory in the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (GII) at Philadelphia's Parx Racing.
The son of Bernardini breezed five furlongs under Brisset in 1:00.40. To Honor and Serve carved out fractions of :12.80, :24.60, :36.80 and :48.40. He galloped out six furlongs in 1:13.80 and 1:29.20 after his third work since his arrival at Churchill Downs better than three weeks ago.
“It was very smooth,” Mott said. “It was very professional about everything. I thought it was a better work than it was last week. We let him go off a little quicker today, so ultimately it was a little bit of a faster work. The gallop-out was very good and I thought everything worked out very well.”
The move ranked as the fourth-fastest of 33 at the distance.
To Honor and Serve started 2011 as a major contender for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI), but was knocked off the springtime road to Churchill Downs by disappointing runs in the Fountain of Youth (GII) and Florida Derby (GIII) at Gulfstream Park and a minor physical problem. The colt returned to competition in early August with a sixth-place run behind Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (GII) candidate Caleb's Posse in the 6 ½ furlong Amsterdam (GII) at Saratoga, then reeled off sparkling wins in a Saratoga allowance race and the Pennsylvania Derby, both run at 1 1/8 miles.
“We were just unable to come into the (Kentucky) Derby and train him the way we wanted to,” Mott said. “I guess it's to his advantage now that he had the time and it looks like he's come back well and he's coming off two real good races. So hopefully he's coming into this in good order and the timing is right.”
Royal Delta and To Honor and Serve are members of a group of five horses that make up Mott's 2011 Breeders' Cup team. Drosselmeyer, winner of the 2010 Belmont Stakes and another Classic hope, and Birdrun, who is bound for the Marathon, worked Saturday.
Mott plans to worked Pam and Martin Wygod and William S. Farish's Courageous Cat, a contender for the TVG Breeders' Cup Mile, on the Matt Winn Turf Course on Monday. The son of Storm Cat galloped over the main track early Sunday.
Courageous Cat won this year's Shoemaker Mile (GI) at Hollywood Park and was runner-up to Goldikova in the 2009 Mile at Santa Anita.
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