Mott hobbles, but Carina Mia and Tourist shine
by Jennie Rees
Bill Mott, Churchill Downs’ all-time win leader, acknowledged he couldn’t pass a pre-race veterinary exam after the filly Carina Mia spooked and ran into him Saturday, dinging up the Hall of Fame trainer’s knee. But if Mott’s gait had a hitch, his Breeders’ Cup horses Carina Mia and Tourist were in fine form, both working very well Sunday at Santa Anita.
Carina Mia worked a half-mile in 47.60 seconds for Saturday’s $1 million Filly & Mare Sprint, while Tourist went the same distance in 47.80 for his third attempt at the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Mile on turf.
“It was what I wanted,” Mott said of Carina Mia. “She did enough. She wasn’t anxious or rank, just did it well within herself.”
Three Chimneys Farm’s Carina Mia ended her 2-year-old season with victory in Churchill Downs’ Golden Rod and started 2016 with a fourth in Keeneland’s Ashland before taking Churchill’s seven-furlong Eight Belles on the Kentucky Oaks undercard. She won Belmont’s prestigious Acorn before running into unbeaten champion Songbird in Saratoga’s 1 1/8-mile Coaching Club American Oaks, finishing five lengths back in second. She was second to Songbird again in Parx’s Cotillion by a similar margin.
That convinced Mott and Carina Mia’s owners to go in the Filly & Mare Sprint rather than Friday’s 1 1/8-mile $2 million Distaff against Songbird, along with champions Stellar Wind and Beholder.
“For me, she’s best at a mile and a sixteenth or less — seven-eighths to a mile I think would be a great distance for her,” Mott said. “So we chose the seven-eighths race. I mean, she’s going to beat a lot of horses going a mile and an eighth. But she’s not going to beat Songbird. I don’t think she’s quite the same level going nine furlongs as seven to a mile.”
Tourist has had horrible trips in his prior Breeders’ Cup starts, being very wide before finishing 13th in 2014 and eighth last year. He won Kentucky Downs’ 2015 More Than Ready Stakes off a 10-month layoff that set him up to finish a close third in Keeneland’s Grade 1 Shadwell. The son of Tiznow got his elusive Grade 1 triumph this summer in Saratoga’s Fourstardave, then was third again in the 2016 Shadwell by the identical half-length deficit.
Mott is a trainer who gives off “tells” when his horses are doing well, as when he’s relaxed and in good spirits chatting with reporters. He was in fine fettle after Tourist’s work even as he limped back to the barn.
“He looked great working,” he said.
Mott over the past 25 years has come up with his “apple cart” horses, those who promise to be a price in the betting but whose training suggests they could pull off a surprise — upsetting the apple cart.
The tradition dates to when Mott predicted that his 2-year-old Take Me Out might “upset the apple cart” in the 1990 Juvenile. Take Me Out finished second at 33-1 odds behind unbeaten champion Fly So Free. Mott also used the phrase in 1992 when 14-1 Fraise upset odds-on favorite Sky Classic in the Turf and 30-1 Paradise Creek was second to Lure in the Mile, along with 22-1 Courageous Cat taking a close second at 22-1 to defending champion Goldikova in the 2009 Mile.
So asked if Tourist might be this year’s apple-cart horse, he said, “You know, he could be. But he’s got to have the perfect trip. I don’t think any of them are good enough to win that race with a troubled trip, and you’d have to put him in that category, too. You’ve got to have the trip. He’s capable. He’s a good horse. He’s had some of those thirds and seconds, maybe a wide trip.”
As far as what happened to Mott, the trainer was holding Carina Mia behind the starting gate waiting to school. “She spooked from something on the gate,” he said. “She was beside me and spooked and ran over me.”
Da Big Hoss works at Trackside before flying out
Skychai Racing’s $4 million Breeders’ Cup Turf contender Da Big Hoss, the two-time winner of Kentucky Downs’ Grade 3 Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup, worked five-eighths of a mile in 1:01 4/5 Sunday, the sixth fastest of 21 at the distance at Churchill Downs’ Trackside training center.
“We weren’t looking for a whole lot, just a maintenance-type breeze and a nice gallop out, which he delivered,” said trainer Mike Maker by phone. “His gallop out is more impressive than his works. Basically at the end of his works it seems like he’s just getting started.”
Da Big Hoss a few hours later flew out to California with stablemates Al’s Gal (going in the $2 million Filly & Mare Turf) and Turfway’s Spiral winner Oscar Nominated (in the undercard Twilight Derby at 1 1/8 miles on grass.
Da Big Hoss was a decent sixth in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf after being more than 30 lengths back early in the race. He’s won eight of 11 races, including seven stakes, since being claimed for $50,000 by Skychai. He’s currently on a four-race victory streak comprised of Keeneland’s Elkhorn, the Belmont Gold Cup, Arlington’s American St. Leger and the Kentucky Turf Cup.
Carina Mia photo courtesy of NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography
Jennie Rees is a racing communications specialist from Louisville. Her Breeders’ Cup coverage, which concentrates on the Kentucky horses, is provided free for media use as a service by Kentucky Downs, Ellis Park, the Kentucky HBPA and JockeyTalk360.com.