Mott Barn Firing On All Cylinders

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Harmonize | Leslie Martin

By Christie DeBernardis

The quarantine at Bill Mott’s winter base at Payson Park may have forced him to alter his plans for some of his horses, but it certainly did not affect their training as three Mott pupils returned to run big races Saturday.

The 14-day quarantine, which went into effect Mar. 1 after a horse shipped into the training facility with EHV-1, was lifted Mar. 15, but many tracks, including Gulfstream and Tampa Bay Downs, refused to take entries from Payson until after the standard 21-day quarantine period. That period expired Mar. 22 and Mott was represented by three winners across the country the following Saturday when Harmonize (Scat Daddy) won the Sanibel Island H. at Gulfstream; Tuttipaesi (Ire) (Clodovil {Ire}) captured the GII Santa Ana S. at Santa Anita; and Take the Stand (Arg) (Not For Sale {Arg}) scored in the GII Mervin Muniz Memorial S. at Fair Grounds.

“The quarantine did [force me to alter plans] with a few horses,” Mott said when reached by phone Tuesday afternoon. “But, you know, a couple of them have come back a couple of weeks later in races other than what we had planned and it worked out for them. It worked out with Harmonize and Tuttipaesi. Those were both horses that could have run a little bit earlier, but we were under quarantine.”

The conditioner continued, “We will see about the rest of them. We’ve got a few others that probably could have run over the last three weekends, but didn’t get the chance. So, we are waiting to run some of them.”

Larkin Armstrong’s Harmonize was one of the top juvenile turf fillies last term following a four-length graduation in Saratoga’s P.G. Johnson S. last September and an impressive late-running victory in Keeneland’s GIII Jessamine S. Oct. 7. Finishing seventh by just 3 3/4 lengths in the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Oct. 30, the dark bay made a strong return off that extended layoff Saturday at Gulfstream.

Hopping at the start in the Sanibel Island, Harmoinze was shuffled to the back of the pack through the early stages, sliced through rivals in the lane and powered clear late to score (video).

“She raced good,” Mott commented. “She was coming off a long layoff and I think she ran quite professionally. There is a race on Derby weekend [the GIII Edgewood S. May 6] that is possible for her.”

Winner of the Suffolk Downs Distaff Turf S. Oct. 3 and Gulfstream’s South Beach S. Dec. 12, Valor Ladies’ Tuttipaesi kicked off this term with a wide-trip third in Hallandale’s GIII Marshua’s River S. Jan. 9 prior to shipping west for the Santa Ana.

Away slowly, the European import ran near the back of the pack early, was forced to check off the heels of the leaders when trapped behind rivals in the lane and surged through a tight seam late to capture her first graded win (video).

“I thought they were putting an awful lot of pressure on her it looked like,” Mott remarked on the stretch run. “I never had a chance to see the direct head on, but it looked pretty tight.”

The Hall of Famer continued, “She got out there in time. She got up in time. She will be coming home [Tuesday]. She ran well. She won a graded stakes and looks like she fits with the best out there. I’m very pleased with her.”

Mott is keeping a return to the West Coast on the table for Tuttipaesi, but will give the gray, who seems to thrive off a good rest, plenty of time before choosing her next start.

“We wouldn’t rule anything out,” the 62-year-old said. “We usually don’t run her back on short rest. Usually we keep her fresh. She probably won’t be looking to run anywhere for the next six weeks or so.”

A Group 3 winner in his native Argentina, Take the Stand had just one win in the U.S. prior to Saturday in a Saratoga optional claimer last September. Closing out last term with a non-factor eighth in the GIII Tropical Turf H. Nov. 21, the Earle Mack, Wachtel Stable and Brous Stable runner was rundown late by Reload (Hard Spun) to miss by just a neck last time in the GIII Tampa Bay S. Feb. 13.

Away well to take control from the inside stall in the Mervin Muniz, the 8-1 shot was allowed unpressured early splits and skipped home an easy winner to take down the colors of favored Fair Grounds turf king Chocolate Ride (Candy Ride {Arg}), who checked in fourth (video).

“Well, I mean he ran as good or better than anyone could have expected,” Mott commented. “He ran track record time and probably his best race since we have had him. We hadn’t seen quite that good a race before, but it was nice for him to turn it in on Saturday. He’s back at Payson Park and doing well.”

As for his next start, Take the Stand could join Harmonize at Churchill Downs on the first weekend in May.

“I suppose the race at Churchill Downs on Derby day [the GI Woodford Reserve Turf Classic] would be a possibility,” the trainer offered. “That’s one possibility. Definitely nothing before then.”

 

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