Riley Mott (Robert Yates)
By Robert Yates – Oaklawn Barn Notes
HOT SPRINGS, Ark.— When trainer Riley Mott said he would be based this winter at Oaklawn, he meant it.
Mott, the son of Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, recorded his first career victory when Unifying broke her maiden in Thursday’s sixth race at Churchill Downs.
Mott, however, celebrated his landmark victory in Arkansas, where he is overseeing his growing stable, expected to reach 25, when the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting begins Dec. 9.
“Oh, yeah,” Riley Mott, 30, said during training hours Monday morning. “I’ve got to take care of these (horses). The ones that ran at Churchill were in my dad’s barn, being taken care of by his assistant.”
Riley Mott, using his cell phone, said he watched Unifying’s victory from the couch of his Hot Springs residence, along with wife Megan and their 15-month-old daughter, Margot. Unifying was saddled by Bill Mott’s longtime assistant, Kenny McCarthy, who oversees the trainer’s Kentucky division. Riley Mott spent approximately eight years as an assistant to his father before going out on his own earlier this month.
“Takes the pressure off for Oaklawn,” Mott said.
Unifying marked Mott’s third career starter after American Tattoo ran sixth in a claiming race Nov. 2 at Churchill Downs and Spunk finished third in a maiden-claiming event Nov. 6 at Churchill Downs. Mott said he was also in Arkansas for those two races because Oaklawn’s stable area opened Nov. 1.
“We always planned just to run three at the Churchill meet,” Mott said. “(Unifying) looks like the last one and I had the best feeling of the three with her. She had run really well in New York first time. When the PPs came out for her race, she looked pretty tough in there.”
A 2-year-old daughter of Union Rags, Unifying ($4.90) scored a front-running 1 ¾-length victory under Florent Geroux. She was exiting a runner-up finish for Bill Mott in her career debut, another maiden special weight sprint, Sept. 15 at Belmont at The Big A. Riley Mott said Unifying was to be vanned to Oaklawn to join American Tattoo (Spunk was claimed out of her race for $30,000).
“Got to decide whether to keep her sprinting or stretch her out,” Mott said, referring to Unifying. “In both of her races, she’s galloped out well in front of the field. She’s not built like a two-turn type, but sometimes they don’t have to be.”
Mott said he hopes to continue to build his stable through Thursday’s Keeneland November Horses of Racing Age Sale. Same business model – Mott will be in Arkansas, not Kentucky.
“I’ll stay here,” Mott said. “I have a bloodstock associate there for me, so we’re going to be shopping. I’m looking at all the PPs and stuff on the horses.”
Bill Mott was Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 1986.
Jockeying for Position
David Cabrera, Oaklawn’s leading rider last season, will be getting on horses Wednesday morning, his agent, Joe Santos, said in a text message Monday afternoon.
Cabrera is now based at Remington Park in Oklahoma City, which is dark Wednesday and Thursday. Cabrera has captured the last four riding titles at Remington and was tied fifth this year through Monday after recovering from head, upper back, neck and facial injuries suffered in a spill last April at Oaklawn.
Cabrera missed the final month of the meeting, but still finished with a 62-61 advantage over Francisco Arrieta to secure his first career Oaklawn riding title. Cabrera returned to the saddle July 8 at Lone Star, three months after his accident.
Santos said he will also represent 5-pound apprentice jockey Rene Diaz at the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting. Diaz has 52 career victories, the last coming Sept. 25 at Churchill Downs, and will retain his apprentice weight allowance for the next 2 ½ months, Santos said, before becoming a journeyman.
Agent “Big Steve” Krajcir of Hot Springs said Monday morning that he will represent 10-pound apprentice Erica Herrforth at the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting. Herrforth’s first career victory came with her first mount, Carry On, for trainer Joe Sharp May 20, 2022, at Churchill Downs. Krajcir said Herrforth has business ties to Sharp, working as an exercise rider for the trainer.
Herrforth added her second career victory last August at Belterra Park and has 24 mounts overall, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization.
In addition to Herrforth, Krajcir said he will again represent Kelsi Harr and Chel-c Bailey – both leading apprentice jockeys at Oaklawn – during the 2022-2023 meeting. Harr and Bailey are now journeymen.
Horses for Steve Asmussen and Lynn Chleborad are on the grounds training in advance of the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting that begins Dec. 9. Asmussen (820) is the second-winningest trainer in Oaklawn history and has collected a record 12 meet titles in Hot Springs. Chleboard (132) is the winningest female trainer in Oaklawn history.
Yuugiri recorded her first workout at Oaklawn in preparation for the 2022-2023 meeting, covering a half-mile in :51 over a fast track Friday morning for trainer Rodolphe Brisset. Yuugiri captured the $600,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies last April at Oaklawn and is unraced since a 13th-place finish in the $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) last May at Churchill Downs. The Kentucky Oaks is the country’s biggest race for 3-year-old fillies.
Another Brisset trainee, Hozier ($11.90), was a front-running winner of the $300,000 off-the-turf River City Handicap (G3) for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles Sunday at Churchill Downs. Hozier finished second in the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) for 3-year-olds in 2021 at Oaklawn for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.
Arkansas-bred star Bandit Point worked 3 furlongs in :38.40 over a fast track Thursday morning for owner/trainer Robert N. Cline. Cline said Monday morning that Bandit Point’s major 2022-2023 Oaklawn objective is again the $200,000 Arkansas Breeders’ Championship Stakes for state-breds, 4 and up, at 1 1/16 miles May 6. Bandit Point, who has $510,363 in career earnings, has made four starts in the Arkansas Breeders’ Championship, finishing third in 2019, fourth in 2020, fifth in 2021 and second in 2022.