Mott's Lion Cavern in for Dash

Laurel notebook

July 25, 1993|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Staff Writer

Lenny Hale, vice president of racing at Laurel/Pimlico, says that trainer Billy Mott thinks like a horse.

"By that, I mean, he can tell almost by osmosis why a horse i uncomfortable and what can be done to help him. He doesn't need a magnifying glass to do it."

Today, Mott, fourth leading money-winning trainer in America makes a rare appearance in Maryland when he saddles Lion Cavern in the $300,000 Frank J. De Francis Dash. The horse will be ridden by Julie Krone, heroine of the 1993 Belmont Stakes and a former Maryland jockey.

Last week "was a quiet one," said Mott, who has won five stake races during the current Belmont Park meet. "I won a 2-year-old race on Thursday [at Belmont Park] and then spent the last couple of days switching horses back and forth between Belmont and Saratoga [in anticipation of Wednesday's Spa opening]."

Last year Mott tied D. Wayne Lukas as Saratoga's leadin trainer.

The tempo could pick up considerably today if Lion Cavern live up to his advance billing in the De Francis Dash.

The horse arrived in Mott's barn last October from the Europea stables of Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, the Finance Minister of Dubai and owner of a thoroughbred empire.

"They liked him over there and thought he had a lot of quaility, said Mott. Lion Cavern finished second in the Group I Middle Park Stakes as a 2-year-old to Rodrigo de Triano, a champion miler.

"But because of his breeding -- he is sired by Mr. Prospector -- they thought he'd suit America and that he'd take to the dirt, which he has."

Lion Cavern made his U.S. debut March 18 at Gulfstream Park i a race that was also the season-opener for Furiously, the so-called "male Ruffian" and 1992 Grade I-winning 3-year-old. Furiously was the even-money favorite, but failed to menace, finishing nearly four lengths behind the winning Mott runner.

Privately, people were saying that maybe Mott had the bes sprinter in the country, but Lion Cavern didn't reappear until nearly two months later, when he came from off the pace and won the Grade II True North Handicap at Belmont Park.

"Horses are individuals," Mott said. "It takes some longer t recuperate from races than others."

Now his campaign should start to accelerate. If Lion Cavern run well today at Laurel, he'll go next in the Grade II Forego Stakes at Saratoga. "Ultimately, we'd like to think he'll wind up in the Breeders' Cup Sprint," Mott said. But he hastily added: "You never know and can only take it one race at a time."

Neither Sheik Mohammed's horses nor Mott are strangers to th Laurel winner's circle. Sheik Mohammed has won the last two runnings of the All Along Stakes with Sha Tha and Marble Maiden and Mott won the 1989 Selima Stakes with Diana Firestone's Sweet Roberta. He also trains Traverse City, this spring's runner-up in the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes.

Mott reaches another important milestone this week: he turns 4 on Thursday and Hale thinks he might host a pre-birthday bash for him today at Laurel.

Mott was born in Mobridge, S.D., and began training horse while he was still in high school. Before graduation, he had saddled the winner of the South Dakota Futurity.

After becoming a training sensation at Churchill Downs, Bert Firestone and Diana hired him in 1987 to be their private trainer. When the Firestones cut back their operation, Mott went public and now trains about 70 horses for the likes of Sheik Mohammed, Allen and Madeleine Paulson, Mrs. Allaire du Pont and Hickory Tree Stable. In short, some of the world's wealthiest horse owners.

At 40, is Mott satisfied with the life of an accomplished hors trainer?

Characteristically low key, he replied: "I'm just happy to make i from one birthday to the next."

Tagg team

Trainer Barclay Tagg won his second stakes in a week yesterday when La Turka rallied from fourth place and won the Bold Queen Stakes by a neck over Eloquent Silver. Last weekend, the Tagg-trained Royal Mountain Inn won the Red Smith Handicap at Belmont Park.

Miscellaneous

Julie Krone turned 30 yesterday. . . . Little Bold John is close to making a comeback at age 11. He has worked in black letters at the Bowie Training Center the last two weekends and appears ready to run.

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