Motion-trainee Script (#5 outside) came from the back of the pack with a furious closing kick in the Let It Ride missing by a nose. Benoit Photo
DEL MAR, Calif.—Trainer Graham Motion has been bringing horses to Del Mar from his east coast base at Fair Hill, Maryland since 2014, making his seaside debut during the inaugural Bing Crosby meet. He’s already notched a stakes victory in the young 2022 fall meet with Bipartisanship (GB) Saturday in the Kathryn Crosby Stakes. He also had a near miss in Friday’s Let It Ride when his 3-year-old colt Script came from the back of the pack with a furious closing kick and missed by a nose.
So, nothing out of the ordinary. Motion usually makes an impact wherever his horses race and there’s more where that came from.
“We sent four out (to Del Mar) on a Fed Ex this week,” Motion says, “and then Speaking Scout stayed over from the Twilight Derby. He’ll run in the Hollywood Derby at the end of the meet. So we’ll have half a dozen in the rotation.”
That’s par for the course for the 58-year-old conditioner who has been an annual participant at the Bing Crosby meet.
“It ties in really well with Keeneland just because when Keeneland is over and we get back to the east coast there’s not a lot of grass racing left,” he noted. “Often we’re out there (on the west coast) anyway for the Breeders’ Cup so it works well for us and it’s a great place to race.”
The bulk of Motion’s stable remains at Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland, 350 acres set in the rolling hills of the Mid-Atlantic.
“We moved there 20 years ago,” Motion says. “We can do our own thing. We have our own facility, and we can go wherever we want with our horses. We’re not tied to anybody. It’s a luxury to have and it also enables us to do a lot of different things with the horses, we don’t have to go to the racetrack every day.”
Over the past several years, Motion has been scaling back on his operations while exploring places to race.
“We used to have two barns at Fair Hill,” Motion says. “Then two years ago we decided to consolidate a little bit and we sold one of them. I’m trying to concentrate more on quality than quantity. So we keep 70 horses at Fair Hill and then Alice (Clapham, his assistant) is usually on the road with a string, whether it be at Saratoga or Del Mar. It’s even possible we might send some to Santa Anita, we haven’t decided yet.”
Motion has become one of the most respected trainers on the east coast. His involvement in racing dates back to his early years.
“My family was always involved with horses,” Motion remembers. “My mom was one of the first females on the backstretch in America and my dad was an auctioneer for the Tattersall Auction Company so racing is pretty much in my blood.”
Motion has been training horses for nearly 30 years.
“I worked for Jonathan Shepherd,” he says. “That was my introduction to racing after I left high school. I spent a season in Europe where I met my wife. Then I worked with Bernie Bond and when he retired in Maryland in 1993 I took over his license.
“I’ve been incredibly fortunate,” Motion continues. “Bernie got me off to a really great start and I’ve had some great owners.”
And some great horses. Motion trained Animal Kingdom, winner of the 2011 Kentucky Derby and the 2013 Dubai World Cup. There was Better Talk Now, winner of the 2004 Breeders’ Cup Turf; Main Sequence, Eclipse Award winning grass champion in 2014 and most recently 2019 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner Sharing. There is also Mean Mary and Spendarella, his star 3-year-old filly who hasn’t raced since winning the Del Mar Oaks this summer.
“We’ll probably get her back under tack by Christmas time,” Motion says, “and then hope for a spring campaign with her.”
In the meantime, keep an eye on Script, a horse Motion once thought could be a Derby horse until he got sick this spring. If his run on opening day is any indication, there’s big things ahead for the colt. And Motion is the one to make it happen.