By Jen Roytz
Riley Mott, a longtime assistant to his Hall of Fame father, Bill Mott, recently announced he was going out on his own. The 30-year-old will hang his own shingle after taking out his training license. Jen Roytz sat down with the younger Mott for this Q&A.
JR: What has it been like coming up under your father?
RM: To be honest, it's been like going to Harvard for horse training. Not only learning from him but from everyone involved in our operation, all the way up and down the ladder. I've gained knowledge from everyone in our barn at one point or another in my life. I have a great blueprint on how to run my business and feel very equipped for what lies ahead.
JR: Describe the type of horseman you are?
RM: I try to be patient and understanding towards the horses first and foremost. It's quite amazing what they allow us to do with them when you take a step back and think about it. They're such amazing animals. All horses learn and adapt at their own pace and I find it helpful to be cognizant of that while training.
JR: Describe the responsibility that comes with being a trainer.
RM: As a trainer you are the absolute insurer, so you have all of the responsibility. I've learned that you have to follow your gut and be confident in the decisions you make. Attention to detail and surrounding yourself with good staff can't be overstated.
JR: What is your favorite aspect of horse racing?
RM: I would say the lead up and anticipation of a race is my favorite aspect. It's basically a crescendo of blood, sweat and tears from the breeders, sellers, breaking farms and trainers (and many more parties in between) to get a horse in the starting gate for a race. And if you win, even more thrilling.
JR: What horses have had the biggest impact on your life?
RM: My dad has always said Theatrical (Ire) probably had the biggest impact on his life. The horse paid for my parents' first house in New York and they were able to start our family from there. Maybe if it weren't for Theatrical I wouldn't exist, so for that reason, Theatrical.
JR: Talk about some of the horses that have taught you the most?
RM: We've had a number of horses who I would consider “projects,” whether it be for soundness or temperamental reasons. There have been times where I've only seen a dead end with them, but we've given them the time required to get right and it's worked out well. I've learned that if they can go on and win a race down the line, it's worth giving the horse a fair chance, even if the end goal is well in the future.
JR: What is one of your biggest professional accomplishments?
RM: I've been involved in a number of champions, classic winners, Grade I winners, etc. I would consider all of those team accomplishments rather than my own accomplishments. There's no one person who is responsible for any of those successes, but I take a lot of pride in the horses our team has been able to develop.
JR: What are some ways trainers and their staff can improve the racehorse ownership experience?
RM: It depends on the ownership group. Some owners are happy to let you do your thing and see you over in the paddock for the race. Others enjoy being more involved in the day-to-day happenings. I believe in flexibility and having an open door for your clients. We're not just in the horse training business, but the service business as well. My goal is to get creative and introduce some new ways to involve our clients.
JR: In what ways do you think HISA will change racing in the coming years?
RM: I think it will ultimately create a more level playing field, which I would say most people are in favor of. In theory, horsemanship and skill will be rewarded. Some of the bookkeeping requirements appear to be rather tedious, but I'm confident the rules will evolve over time and the record-keeping system will be a bit more realistic. It would be nice to see uniformity without getting too radical.
JR: What (so far) has been your most memorable moment in racing?
RM: Country House's [Kentucky] Derby was quite wild. Not because that's how we wanted to win the race, but the roller coaster of emotion it took us on was pretty unique. From one extreme to another and everything in between. Experiencing it with my wife Megan was also very special. Both the positives and the negatives of the situation are something I'll never forget.
JR: What do you think horse racing is doing right?
RM: One thing that appears to be regularly overlooked is the amount of jobs our industry provides. Between the backstretch workers, administrative workers, frontside workers, maintenance teams and so on, it takes armies to operate a race meet. That's something I've been so proud of in regard to my parents' business over the years. Providing work for families is very honorable and something I hope to do in the same capacity going forward.
JR: Do you ride, and if so, what is your riding background?
RM: I ride the pony every day, that's the extent of it. His name is Round, a Claiborne homebred who we raced. By Arch, out of Enth, half to multiple stakes winners. He catches the eye.
JR: Most used app on your phone
RM: Dark Sky
JR: What is a good book you've read lately
RM: More of a past performance guy
JR: Favorite racing movie
JR: What do you enjoy doing outside of work
RM: Golf and family time
JR: What is the last thing you Googled
RM: Best brand of electric scooter
JR: What do you wish you learned sooner
RM: I didn't learn how to ride a bike until I was about nine
JR: What skill are you still honing
RM: Everything. You're never a finished product.
JR: What trait most defines who you are
JR: Favorite quote or motto
RM: Hindsight is everything in the game of horse racing
JR: What food (or drink) can you not live without
RM: Erma Scott's shepherd's pie
JR: What is a nickname that people call/have called you?
JR: Go-to breakfast
JR: Go-to cocktail
RM: Casamigos margarita
JR: Go-to karaoke song
RM: Whatever song my 10-month-old daughter has been listening to
JR: What sports teams do you follow
RM: Kentucky Wildcats basketball/football. Cam Smith is my favorite golfer.
JR: What was the last show you binge watched
RM: Too embarrassed to say
JR: If you could have one super power, what would it be?
JR: What is the worst fashion (or hair) decision you've ever made?
RM: Middle school: surfer hair. Polo shirt with gym shorts.
Follow Riley on Twitter: @Riley_Mott