John Pricci executive editor John Pricci has over three decades of experience as a thoroughbred racing public handicapper and was an award-winning journalist while at New York Newsday for 18 years.

John has covered 14 Kentucky Derbies and Preaknesses, all but three Breeders' Cups since its inception in 1984, and has seen all but two Belmont Stakes live since 1969.

Currently John is a contributing racing writer to, an analyst on the Capital Off-Track Betting television network, and co-hosts numerous handicapping seminars. He resides in Saratoga Springs, New York.

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Saturday, February 16, 2013

Mott World

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla., February 16, 2013---If you check the trainer statistics at the current Gulfstream Park and note that Bill Mott is batting 35 percent from 61 starters through Thursday, if you didn’t know better you’d think the calendar was wrong; it must be October, not February.

Based at Payson Park, most years Mott treats Gulfstream almost as a second thought, preferring instead to freshen much of his stock, relying on his trademark patience and Hall of Fame horsemanship to prepare for the big races later in the year, especially during the fall championship season.

But something’s gotten into Mott at this meet, like a bunch of terrific new stock, some of which have been provided by the Juddmonte folks, the outfit that seemingly is always among Eclipse finalists in the Breeder of the Year category.

What he’s also not known for is his debut types yet, at this stand, he brought two three-year-old fillies out for their debuts, and all Calistoga and Close Hatches did was to run holes in the wind. Just like contemporary Flashy Lady did in a preliminary allowances here last weekend.

Calistoga did the job while demonstrating brilliant zip; Close Hatches just the opposite, launching the kind of wide, sweeping turn move—what the New York wise guys call the Belmont Balcony move-- that almost never wins a one-turn race at less than a mile in Hallandale.

On the turf side meanwhile, a surface upon which Mott’s horses always seem to be at home, there’s Tapicat, who shipped north to Oldsmar and took the Grade 3 Florida Oaks impressively for her third straight victory.

And, as everyone knows, good things come in threes, like it did today when Emollient—yet another three-year-old filly, won a conditioned race but that was only a prelude.

Mott scored the hat trick yesterday, ending the day with a graded stakes double header as Starformer making a successful season’s debut in the G3 The Very One and Amira’s Prince the G2 Mac Diarmida in high style.

Has Mott had rolls like this before? “We’ve been doing this for 40 years so of course we’ve had runs like this. But there’ve been some long dry spells in between. It’s the horses. It’s like [Wayne] Lukas says: ‘You’ve got to have the right set’.”

And a hands-on horseman calling the shots.

In Starformer, Mott has a highly consistent graded performer who hadn’t run since winning the G3 Long Island Handicap over soft ground at 1-1/2 miles last November at the Big A.

So the 11 furlong trip, the fact that Mott is 22% efficient with 90-days + trainees, there was cut in the ground given nearly two inches of rainfall Thursday and Friday and the presence of Edgar Prado, having a resurgent meet and on the Juddmonte filly for each of her last four victories.

“With it raining hard for the last few days they kept the track in good shape. We ran on fresh ground,” said Prado. “I sat right behind the lead and waited. She gave me a nice, beautiful move as we tried to find the best part of the track.”

“She fell into a good position third,” Mott said. We stretched her out to 11 furlongs or more and she seems to like that a lot better [than shorter trips]. The Orchid is here [Grade 3, March 30] and I guess that will be her next start.”

Amira’s Prince has been somewhat of a pleasant surprise. “We had no idea [how good he would be]. My owner Edam Wachtel is very proactive buying horses. He was the one who bought Ron the Greek and Al Khali.

“They sent him over for the Jamaica last fall but he looked like he needed more time. So we brought him down here and freshened him up. This is the result.”

The upshot was his third straight victory over this course, today’s a comprehensive 3-3/4 length score at the same 11-furlong trip as The Very One, the colt’s 2:17.14 falling right in line with the mare’s 2:18.03.

Mott earlier scratched Newsdad when the course, rated good, came up decidedly less than firm.

[Amira’s Prince] hasn’t put a foot wrong, he’s 3-for-3 for us [at Gulfstream]. It seems like he keeps improving. The plan originally was not to run him in this race. But he was doing so well I said to the owners ‘it would be a shame to keep this horse in the barn as well as he’s doing.

“They run the Pan American here [March 23]. Whether it would be too much to run him one more time here I don’t know. I guess you’ve got to be careful this early in the year.”

Good thing for Mott he doesn’t heed his own advice. His champion Royal Delta runs in the Sabin Sunday, her prep for the $10 million Dubai World Cup March 30. Will she make it three graded stakes wins on the weekend?

“I’m not going to say that.” So far, his horses have done all the talking.

Written by John Pricci

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