By Mike Kane
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Arriving just in time at the wire, Elite Power (Curlin) added to Bill Mott's massive resume of Grade I triumphs Saturday and yet another birthday victory to his remarkable total at Saratoga Race Course.
With his thrilling come-from-behind score by a head over Gunite (Gun Runner) Saturday in the GI Alfred G. Vanderbilt H., the 4-year-old Juddmonte colt provided the Hall of Famer with a very nice present on his 70th birthday. By extending his winning streak to eight, Elite Power gave Mott his 24th Saratoga victory on his birthday. Since the birthday countdown started in 1992, Mott has had at least one winner in 18 of the 27 years there has been racing at Saratoga on July 29.
“It's been a productive date up until this point,” Mott said with a smile.
Elite Power was the last of Mott's six starters on the Saturday program affected by rain. By the time the Vanderbilt was run at 4:45 p.m., the main track was sealed and listed as sloppy and turf racing had been curtailed. In his first try on a wet track, Elite Power was able to collar and get his head in front of Gunite just before the wire.
After taking part in the winner's circle photograph, Tina Mott said her husband is well aware of the Saratoga birthday angle that came life when he won with his first three starters on his 39th birthday.
“I razz him about it,” she said. “Like, 'Oh, it's your birthday. You have to win a race.'”
Mott's last winner on his birthday was in 2018 and Tina Mott said he joked about it. He was 0-for-5 since Length (War Front) won a maiden special weight race on his 65th birthday.
“He's like 'all the pressure's off now,'” she said. “But he likes to always win at least one on his birthday.”
According to Equibase, Mott entered this season at Saratoga with 464 victories, 91 of them in stakes. Elite Power was his fifth winner so far and third in a stake. Casa Creed (Jimmy Creed) started the stakes run this summer in the GIII Kelso S. and Scotland (Good Magic) got to the wire first in the Curlin S..
Mott saddled his first horse at Saratoga Race Course in 1984 but did not have a starter on his birthday until 1992 when he won the fourth with Missed the Storm, the fifth with Richman and the sixth with Patriot Strike. In the eighth, Tourney finished second by a head to Distinct Habit in the GIII Schuylerville S. Missed the Storm returned the next year to win the GI Test S., which was run two days after his birthday
Following his breakout birthday year, Mott won with three of five starters. He had one winner in 1994, two in 1995. Since then, he has been 0-for-the-29th eight times. In 2015, he did not have a starter on the program. On his birthday, Mott is 24 of 86, a 27.9 winning percentage. Among the wins are the 2000 Test with Dream Supreme (Seeking the Gold) and the 2006 GI Diana S. with Angara (GB) (Alzao).
Mott said he figured that his lineup on Saturday might produce another birthday win.
“I really thought I was in with some good chances, starting out in the second race and we finished second with [High Oak (Gormley)] the longest odds we had on the board. I thought we were in with the chance with a couple horses particularly there, particularly with this horse and then we've scratched the filly [Spungie (Hard Spun)] in the [ninth] race. They're off the turf. So I thought we had some chances. You Look Cold [Frosted] finish third [in the fifth]. She ran well. She gave a good effort. The main thing is that they all run well. The birthday thing, winning on your birthday is fun, but the most important thing is that we generate Grade I winners for a major stable like this horse did today. That's what it's really all about. It's about winning, winning the major races and horses like this going to the stud barn.”