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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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Friday, November 04, 2011

Another Three-Year-Old Filly Champion for Mott

LOUISVILLE, Nov. 4, 2011--On Saturday afternoon at approximately 6:07 p.m., the great race mare Goldikova will attempt to go where no horse has gone before--the winner’s circle, after a fourth consecutive appearance in a Breeders’ Cup race.
Royal Delta gives Bill Mott his fourth Ladies Classic
Photo by: Linda Pricci
Royal Delta gives Bill Mott his fourth Ladies Classic

On Formally Filly Friday, a Hall of Fame horseman, the youngest to be so honored at the time, beat the great turf mare to the punch. It might have taken Bill Mott a little longer, but he’got his four-bagger; courtesy of Royal Delta in the former filly Distaff, now the Ladies Classic.

Performance speed figures are meant to measure the ability of young horses as they mature into full grown Thoroughbreds. Some take longer than others during this process; others never even reach that staqe. Part of it is the animal itself; the other is the horseman who teaches that what's expected of it.

The performance figures that are hand crafted by Equiform, the same numbers that has enabled the analysis of the day’s Feature Race to remain profitable for four years here, not only indicates how fast a horse runs, but how it runs fast. It is as much a measure of the teacher as it is his equine student.

When young horses are maturing into full blown racehorses, it’s important that they do it slowly, incrementally. Too much too soon can not only lead to disappointment but end what should have been a promising career. Horses need to develop slowly, but surely. Did we mention slowly?
Stephanie's Kitten - a Tiger in Juvenile Fillies Turf
Photo by: Toni Pricci
Stephanie's Kitten - a Tiger in Juvenile Fillies Turf

In a world full of brilliant horsemen, that are not many trainers who have a gift for slow development than Mott has. You sometimes can see a set of figures and not be surprised that it's a Mott trained animal. It's never too much, never too soon.

Royal Delta is the perfect poster child, brought along slowly but surely, showing signs of ability in its first start, a maiden breaking 12-length score at Belmont Park going a mile. But where others might get ambitious immediately off that performance, Mott took his time.
Juvenile Fillies off to a perfect start
Photo by: Toni Pricci
Juvenile Fillies off to a perfect start

The filly’s three year old debut came in a two turn mile and a sixteenth at Tampa Bay Downs, the Suncoast at a mile and 40 yards. But as many fans know, Tampa can be quirky. Some horses like it; some detest it, but even the latter usually glean something from the experience.

Following that debacle, in which she was beaten by 15 lengths, came a turnaround performance at Keeneland, a 3-length victory and a performance figure 1 ½ points higher than her career debut, a career best but an incremental.

She could have improved that much on her own; the maturity gained from an October two year old to an April three year old. What figured to come next was an explosive move forward. She was primed.
My Miss Aurelia over Grace Hall for the Championship
Photo by: Toni Pricci
My Miss Aurelia over Grace Hall for the Championship

The coming out party came in front of the racing world the day before the Preakness in the Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico. Ridden with total confidence by regular partner Jose Lezcano, she benefited from a trip behind embattled leaders and blew past them to win the race by nearly 3. Mott knew he really had something then.

“She was a little immature in the spring,” Mott explained in the post-race press conference.. “We had the option of possibly running in the Kentucky Oaks but we thought she only had three races…. With that we took an easier route with her and went to a race in Pimlico with a smaller field.”
Secret Circle - Winner of Inaugural Juvenile Sprint
Photo by: Toni Pricci
Secret Circle - Winner of Inaugural Juvenile Sprint

The Black Eyed Susan was about 7 or 8 lengths faster than she had ever run before. “She won the Black‑Eyed Susan, and, of course, with the extra experience that she got, she was ready for today,” said Mott. …We've been here for four weeks. We got dug in here just to try to get the job done.”

But in between, Royal Delta was given time; two months off before a start in the Coaching Club American Oaks, a race Mott used for a stepping stone into the 1-¼ miles Alabama. “She’s got enough stamina,” Mott said of the Alabama score.

“She's got enough speed to stay within the range of pace and she's got a very good turn of foot... She's got a lot of finish to her. Jose [Lezcano] let her get into a very nice rhythm and I think that's the whole thing with her, not to get in her way and just let her find her best cruising speed. When it's time ask her for a little more, and she gives it to you.”

And gave it to you she did, despite a dawdling :49-seconds half mile pace, made possible by careful development. There was the even effort given in the CCAO, a negative reaction to the big forward move Mott knew would sap some reserves. But it always was the Alabama at the forefront of his thinking.
Juan Leyva times it perfectly with Musical Romance
Photo by: Toni Pricci
Juan Leyva times it perfectly with Musical Romance

Following her third place too-late finish in the Oaks that had prep written all over it, Royal Delta returned to win the Alabama by almost 6 lengths, returning to the vicinity of her best effort. And once again, Mott followed the self imposed script.

In her bridge race to the Ladies Classic, Royal Delta finished a non-threatening 8-¼ lengths behind Havre De Grace, closing well but never a threat. Until yesterday, when she joined Ajina and Escena, like Royal Delta, a pair of three year olds, before winning the Ladies Classic last year with the older Unrivaled Belle, and with it, another forward move that saw her develop into the likely three year old championship.

Written by John Pricci

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