Trainer Mott holds no grudges, although . . .

October 15, 1994|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Sun Staff Writer

Bill Mott is giving Maryland a second chance.

Had Paradise Creek been awarded a $1 million bonus for sweeping the Early Times Turf Triple this spring, today's odds-on favorite to win the Washington D.C. International at Laurel Park easily would have been the richest thoroughbred in training at this point of 1994, having earned about $200,000 more than Holy Bull, current leader with $2,095,000 in winnings.

And Mott, his trainer, would be $1 million ahead of national leader D. Wayne Lukas in winning purses instead of trailing him in second place by about $70,000.

Paradise Creek did what he was supposed to do: He won all the Early Times races. But because of a technicality -- only five horses ran against him in the Dixie Handicap at Pimlico instead of the required six -- the bonus was forfeited. Mott said his 10 percent share of the bonus, or $100,000, "was enough to put one of my kids through school."

L But does Mott harbor any ill feeling toward Maryland racing?

"Life is too short to hold grudges," Mott said. The proof is that he's back here from his home base in New York, starting the first potential national grass champion in the International since Sunshine Forever won the race in 1988 and subsequently picked up an Eclipse Award.

"I've always thought those kind of bonuses were a farce, anyway, and that proved it," Mott said. "I just hope Maryland learned from that episode, and the same thing doesn't happen twice."

The horse looks practically invincible, but Laurel's vice president of racing, Lenny Hale, mustered eight horses this time from around the United States and two foreign countries to compete against him today.

If Paradise Creek wins the International and a purse of $360,000, Mott should jump back into the national trainers' lead, at least until the Breeders' Cup, since Lukas doesn't appear to be racing any of his heavy hitters this week.

That Mott has such a laid-back attitude toward losing such a substantial amount of money on a technicality doesn't surprise Bert Firestone, who "discovered" Mott at Churchill Downs in 1987, where the young trainer was making a name for himself. Firestone pirated him away to New York to train what at that point was a major national stable.

"He's a top-class person and the best trainer I've ever had," Firestone said yesterday.

And that's saying something since Firestone and his wife, Diana, have raced six champions and nearly 20 Grade I winners in this country and abroad under the tutelage of a variety of horsemen for the past two decades. Included in the list of Firestone runners is Genuine Risk, the 1980 Kentucky Derby-winning filly.

Had Firestone not sold the 5-year-old horse he bred and raced named Paradise Creek eight months ago, he could be standing in the Washington D.C. International winner's circle today at Laurel instead of astride a show jumper at the Harrisburg (Pa.) National Horse Show, where he is competing with his wife and 17-year-old daughter, Alison.

"But you can't keep them all, and we treat our horse operation like a business," Firestone said. "After Paradise Creek won a couple of stakes in Florida last winter, we simply received an offer we couldn't refuse and sold him."

The buyer, 72-year-old Tokyo real-estate magnate Masayuki Nishiyama, has never seen the horse personally, never attended one of his races or spoken with Mott.

"I guess we don't speak the same language," Mott quipped yesterday. But he is far from complaining. All communication is handled through a California bloodstock agent and Mott said there have been few, if any, disagreements concerning the horse's 1994 campaign.

The International will be Paradise Creek's ninth start in 10 months in major stakes company this year. He has won all of his races except a one-length loss to Lure in August at Saratoga and has earned $1.3 million.

If Paradise Creek wins at Laurel, it will be the second International winner bred by Firestone. In 1979, he raced and then sold one of his 2-year-olds, the Irish-bred Providential II. Two years later, the horse came to America and won the 1981 International, beating the Firestone-owned April Run.

Then, in 1982, Firestone finally got an International winner when April Run returned and won by 6 1/2 lengthsover Majesty's Prince.

During the late 1980s, when the commercial real estate market nose-dived, Firestone suffered financial losses and cut back on his horse holdings.

But he's still very much involved in the horse business and is optimistic about the future.

Next year, the first foal out of Genuine Risk, a colt sired by Rahy, will be going to the races.

"My wife, Diana, broke him herself at the farm this summer and he's at the Middleburg [Va.] Training Track with Barbara Graham," Firestone said.

And who will train him ?

"Bill Mott, of course," Firestone said.


Where: Laurel Race Course.

When: Today and tomorrow.

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