The busy Bill Mott barn was led by three potential Kentucky Derby hopefuls early in 2019 including Tacitus, winner of the Grade 2 Wood Memorial presented by NYRA Bets; Country House, the eventual Derby winner who showed promise with a good second in the Grade 2 Risen Star at Fair Grounds; and Hidden Scroll, an impressive maiden winner who finished fourth in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth.
Country House is off the Triple Crown trail after reportedly developing a cough following the Derby and is eyeing a summer campaign. Tacitus, who finished third in the Derby, is training towards the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont at Mott's Saratoga base and assistant trainer Leana Willaford said Hidden Scroll, third in an allowance tilt on Kentucky Oaks Day at Churchill Downs, could try the turf next.
Hidden Scroll's second dam, Starformer, is a Juddmonte Farms homebred trained by Mott, who won four graded stakes events going a distance of ground on the turf.
“I think you might see him make a surface change. We'd like to try the grass with him. We just have to find the right distance and surface. He ran so well first time out on a sloppy and sealed track at Gulfstream,” said Willaford.
Meanwhile, Mott trainee Channel Maker earned a 106 Beyer Speed Figure for his winning effort in Saturday's Grade 1, $700,000 Man o' War at Belmont Park.
Owned by Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, Gary Barber, R.A. Hill Stable and Wachtel Stable, it was the third graded stakes win and second Grade 1 to go along with his front-running score in last year's Joe Hirsch Turf Classic.
Willaford said the 5-year-old English Channel gelding was in good order on a rainy Sunday morning at Belmont.
“He's great. He jogged sound on the shank and cleaned up his dinner last night, so everything looks good,” said Willaford.
Channel Maker was making his third start of the campaign after finishing off the board in the Grade 2 Mac Diarmida and the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational.
Willaford said she was expecting a big effort from the classy chestnut.
“He ran excellent. The horse has been doing quite well. He looks good, he was working good and we expected a big effort from him,” said Willaford. “Sometimes, it takes them a little bit to get under way. We're really happy with him.”
Bred in Ontario by Ivan Dalos' Tall Oaks Farm, Channel Maker is out of the stakes-winning dam In Return, a Sovereign Award-winning broodmare who also produced multiple Grade 1-winning Canadian-bred turf champion Johnny Bear.
Channel Maker competed in two-thirds on the Canadian Triple Crown at Woodbine in 2017 finishing fourth in the Queen's Plate ahead of a narrow nose win in the 1 1/12-mile turf Breeders'.
Blossoming with age, Channel Maker has increased his annual earnings in successive seasons having banked $105,037 as a 2-year-old; $340,047 as a 3-year-old; $644,880 as a 4-year-old; and has already garnered $827,108 early into his 5-year-old campaign.
He is expected to make his next start in the Grade 1, $1 million Woodford Reserve Manhattan on Belmont Stakes Day, June 8.
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