Tuesday, September 04, 2012

A Man of Few Words

By Brendan O'Meara

Forty days of racing are at last in the can and this past weekend gave us a strong final impression. It was To Honor and Serve doing his best Batman villain Two Face impersonation this week. Seriously? What version of this horse will show?

He threw in a dud in the Grade 2 Suburban a ways back to which Bill Mott, the man who averages the least amount of words per quote, blamed that on the heat. At the time the threw out this loquacious bomb, “No apparent excuse.”

But, surprisingly, Hall of Famer Mott had more to say, following his colt’s impressive win in the Grade 1 Woodward Stakes. Mucho Macho Man came at him with “giant strides” but To Honor and Serve found a championship gear to hold him off by a half a length.

“I knew he had it in him,” Mott said … and kept going. “He’s been training well, he’s a sound horse and there’s no reason for him not to. I told my story the last time [in the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap on July 7 at Belmont Park ] about how I thought the heat had him agitated, and he didn’t do very well in the 97 degrees that day. I think he just threw a real stinker and he did come back today and prove he was a pretty darn good horse.”

And kept going … “When we went into the Suburban, we were really shooting for the Whitney. I think after the result of that, I felt like our excuse was the real sultry hot weather. I made the decision to bypass it because earlier in the month it’s very hot. I figured we’d get a little break in the weather toward the end, and we have. Not only today, but during the nights, and he’s been doing very well and eating very well because he’s appreciated the better weather.”

How about that for astute horsemanship? That is tremendous insight into the 24-7 care it takes to train horses. It’s not just the heat of the day, but, as he said, the hot nights, that can dampen a horse’s mood. And, believe me, there were some rotisserie-cooker nights in Saratoga Springs this summer.

Now Mott needs to figure out what to do with his three leading older horses: To Honor and Serve, Ron the Greek and Flat Out. Where to point them? Ron the Greek is without question going to the Breeders’ Cup Classic so it comes down to whether Mott wants to summon To Honor and Serve’s inner Bernardini, or take a shot at the dirt mile. To Honor and Serve won the Cigar Mile as a three-year-old. Then he threw in a clunker in the Met Mile this year eliciting this from Mott, “I don’t think the inside post helped us, that’s all.”

Oh, c’mon! Give us a little more!

“Well, I’ve got to consider what distance,” Mott said, “but we want to run him whatever race has the biggest gain in it. We’ll have to determine that when it approaches at that time. That’s something we’ll have to sit down with the owners for and work that out. I’m not going to make that decision right now.”

Ok. That’ll do. Save some for your Classic defense.

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Written by Brendan O'Meara

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