One accomplishment that has had a long-lasting impact on the career of trainer H. Graham Motion was winning the Delaware Handicap with Power Play only four years after winning his first race as a trainer. In 1993, after working for trainers Jonathan Sheppard and Bernie Bond, the native of Cambridge, England, won his first career race with Bounding Daisy at Laurel Park. Four years later, at the age of 33, Motion won the biggest race of his career up to that point with Power Play in the Delaware Handicap at Delaware Park.
“We knew Graham when he was just ‘H’.” The Motion in his name did not come until he became well known nationally," a long-time Delaware Park racing fan kiddingly said. “ Around here, we always knew he could train a race horse. The last time we probably got more than a 2-to-1 price on a Motion-trained horse here was when he won the Delaware Handicap.”
Motion, who has his operation at nearby Fair Hill Training Center, will never forget the impact the Delaware Handicap had on his career.
“At the time, it was a huge win for me,” said trainer H. Graham Motion. “Obviously we were a long shot in the race, we were 25-to-1 or something, so we were definitely a long shot. I think if you look back through my career, a lot of my big wins in the big races have been at a price. When you have success with long shots in big races, you gain more confidence to do it. When we won the Breeders’ Cup, we were 27-to-1 with Better Talk Now, I think we were either 30-to-1 or 40-to-1 with Shared Account and we were 25-to-1 when we won the Kentucky Derby with Animal Kingdom. There is no doubt, by having success in those big races at long odds gives you the confidence to do it again and again. I watch trainers like Lukas and people like that over the years. I see them to take those shots in these races and I think when you have success, it gives you the confidence to do it.”
Motion remembers his Delaware Handicap victory very well and he also remembers how he thought he made a mistake by entering Power Play in the race.
“I remember the Delaware Handicap win with Power Play like it was yesterday,” he said. “I was with some of my original owners. As the horses went down the back stretch, I was thinking ‘why did I run this filly in this race.’ She was at the back and they were saying ‘they could not see where she was.’ I was kind of scratching my head and wondering why I put her in this race. Then all of a sudden at the quarter-pole off she went and she became one of my big early wins. I am sure that happens to people all the time, but it is an important learning experience.”
And off went career of H. Graham Motion. But come July, he is always thinking about the Delaware Handicap.
“The two big weekends that are special to us are the Preakness weekend, with all the stakes that we have had a lot of luck running in, and the Delaware Handicap weekend,” he said. “Those are two of the bigger weekends we have always been associated with and we always point for races on those weekends for sure.”
Motion has not won his second Delaware Handicap yet. But he has come close. In 2002, Your Out came within a neck of upsetting the heavy favorite Summer Colony. It is a race he would very much like to win again and again.
“Races like the Delaware Handicap are becoming fewer and far between I think,” he said. “The longer races like the Del Cap are around, the more we come to appreciate them. It is like winning the Whitney at Saratoga. Races like the Whitney and the Delaware Handicap are history making races.”
Since 1997, he has won more than 25 stakes at Delaware Park including five renewals of the Grade III Robert G. Dick Memorial, five John Rooney Memorials and the Grade II Delaware Oaks.