Riley Mott Hoping for First Stakes in Sunday’s Temperence Hill

April 1, 2023

Riley Mott (Robert Yates)

Undefeated Punchbowl to G1 Ashland

Oaklawn Barn Notes by Robert Yates

HOT SPRINGS, Ark.— A day after Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott tried to win his first Arkansas Derby, his son, trainer Riley Mott, will try to win his first stakes race.

Mott, 31, who went out on his own Nov. 1, will saddle Mystic Night for Oaklawn owner Louis Cella in Sunday’s $150,000 Temperence Hill Stakes for older horses at 1 ½ miles. Mystic Night (12-1 on the morning line) will mark Mott’s third career stakes starter. Mystic Night, a 6-year-old gelded son of Into Mischief, exits a fourth-place finish in a March 18 allowance race at Oaklawn going 1 1/16 miles.

“Every time we’ve run him, the jock has come back and said, ‘Man, this horse needs more ground,’” Mott said. “I think we’ve run him three times here already. I’m not necessarily one that wants to wheel them back super quick, but he’s a big, strapping horse that kind of takes to training really well and came out of the last one in good shape.”

Mystic Night is one of two horses Mott purchased for Cella at Keeneland’s November Horses of Racing Age Sale. Mystic Night (a $120,000 buy) finished seventh and fourth in his first two starts at the meeting for Mott, who recorded his first career victory Nov. 10 at Churchill Downs with Unifying. After a slow start, Mott, through Friday, had added five victories at the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting and finished second with Unifying in the $150,000 Year’s End Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at 1 mile Dec. 31. Mott has managed roughly 20 horses this season at Oaklawn.

“I think a lot of it was I just kind of scrapped together whatever horses people were willing to send me, whether they, at the end of the day, fit at Oaklawn or not,” Mott said. “That’s up for someone’s determination. But we came here with some nice horses that did fit and we’ve won some nice races. We’ve won five, but four of them $100,000 purses. So, I think in the first three or four months of my career I’m pleased with that, without getting too greedy.”

Traverse takes an allowance Feb. 12 (Coady Photography)

Traverse, a homebred for famed Claiborne Farm, has emerged as the star of Mott’s stable, finishing fourth in the $150,000 Pippin Stakes for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles Jan. 7 before scoring sharp allowance victories Feb. 12 and March 17. Mott said Traverse is pointing for the $300,000 Doubledogdare Stakes (G3) for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles April 21 at Keeneland.

“She’s obviously had a good season here at Oaklawn,” Mott said. “Obviously, a lot of horses don’t really hit their stride until after their 3-year-old year, so it’s nice for her to do well here at Oaklawn. Been cool for me because, just obviously starting out, to have a nice horse for Claiborne competing in those nice races.”

Mott said Claiborne is scheduled to send him some 2-year-olds this spring in Kentucky, where the trainer will be based. Oaklawn closes May 6.

“I’m going to definitely leave some horses here for the end of the meet,” Mott said. “We’re going to be doubling in size with the 2-year-olds coming in. We should have a pretty busy spring.”

Bill Mott, Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 1986, was to saddle Grade 3 winner Rocket Can in the $1.25 million Arkansas Derby (G1) Saturday at Oaklawn.

Kentucky Punch

Punchbowl gallops March 28 (Coady Photography)

Unbeaten Punchbowl will make her next start in the $600,000 Ashland Stakes (G1) for 3-year-old fillies April 7 at Keeneland, trainer Brad Cox said.

A homebred for Gary and Mary West, Punchbowl has won both career starts at the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meet. Punchbowl, after a tardy start, inhaled most of the field in her Feb. 11 debut sprinting, then scored a wire-to-wire 4 ¼-length victory in first-level allowance race at 1 1/16 miles March 5.

The 1 1/16-mile Ashland will offer 200 points (100-40-30-20-10, respectively) to the top five finishers toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Oaks, the country’s biggest race for 3-year-old fillies.

Cox also trains Wet Paint, who was the program favorite for the $600,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) at 1 1/16 miles Saturday at Oaklawn. Wet Paint (70 points) has already secured a spot in the Kentucky Oaks after winning Oaklawn’s $200,000 Martha Washington Stakes at 1 1/16 miles Jan. 28 and the $300,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 25.

After considering the Ashland for Wet Paint, Cox opted to keep her at Oaklawn and send Punchbowl to the Ashland.

“Here’s the way I looked at it: Wet Paint, she’s 2 for 2 at Oaklawn, as the other horse is, too,” Cox said. “But it (Ashland) gives her more time. It’s given Punchbowl a little more time. Honestly, it was easy to figure out from a trainer’s standpoint. Keeneland is a mile and a sixteenth, the Ashland. It’s a shorter stretch. Doesn’t mean a speed horse is going to win it, but I think you help yourself if you’re able to at least get involved in the race. Wet Paint, obviously, doesn’t have much speed out of the gate and it’s a short stretch at Keeneland. Punchbowl has more early speed. It was actually easy to decide who really belonged where.”

Punchbowl, a daughter of Uncle Mo, will likely need a top two finish in the Ashland to qualify for the Kentucky Oaks, which is limited to 14 starters.

“This is a very nice prospect for this year,” jockey Florent Geroux said after guiding Punchbowl to her March 5 victory. “We’ve always thought she could route. I was a little bit afraid of the inexperience. She had only run one time sprinting. I was not expecting her to be on the lead, my filly. When I asked her down the lane, she rebroke again. Very excited about her.”

Punchbowl, in company, worked 5 furlongs in 1:01.80 Friday morning at Oaklawn in preparation for the Ashland. Another locally based 3-year-old filly, Effortlesslyelgant, worked a half-mile in :50.80 Friday morning. Effortlesslyelgant, a March 19 allowance winner at 1 1/16 miles, is being considered for the Ashland, trainer Norm Casse said.

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