Riley Mott on the track for a work. (Robert Yates photo)
Oaklawn Barn Notes by Robert Yates
HOT SPRINGS, Ark.—Trainer Riley Mott has been knocking on the door for his elusive second career victory. He’ll have two more shots to kick it in Friday at Oaklawn, where he is wintering after going out on his own Nov. 1.
Mott, the son of Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, is scheduled to start American Tattoo in the first race and Unifying in the featured eighth race, a $104,000 entry-level allowance for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles.
Mott has started 11 horses this season at Oaklawn, with three finishing second and three running third. One of those runner-up finishes was with Unifying in the inaugural $150,000 Year’s End Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at 1 mile Dec. 31. Unifying represented Mott’s first career victory Nov. 10 at Churchill Downs.
“I guess you could probably get discouraged at not winning, but at the same time I don’t think I’ve had one horse run poorly,” Mott said. “Like I said, they’re knocking at the door and hitting the board, so I’m actually really pleased with how things are going even though we haven’t gotten in the win column yet. I think it’s on the horizon. If we continue to do what we’re doing, we’ll probably be in good shape.”
Unifying has made three career starts. She began her racing career with Bill Mott and finished second in her Sept. 15 debut at Aqueduct (Belmont At The Big A meet). She was then transferred to Riley Mott and was a front-running maiden special weight winner sprinting at Churchill Downs. The Year’s End marked the two-turn debut for Unifying, who was beaten 5 ¼ lengths by Defining Purpose. Unifying, by 2012 Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags, brings ascending Beyer Speed Figures (56-63-70) into Friday’s race.
“It’s not typical for us to run one back (this quick),” Mott said. “It’s three weeks, or 20 days. Generally, give them a little more time than that, but you have to look at the individual. In her regard, she bounced out of that listed stake really, really well and I think even has taken a step forward since then in her training. She’s very sound and happy and her energy’s great. So, I just thought it would be a good opportunity and, obviously, it’s a great purse.”
The Year’s End was created as a major local prep for the $200,000 Martha Washington Stakes at 1 1/16 miles Jan. 28, Oaklawn’s first of three Kentucky Oaks points races. Unifying is nominated to the Martha Washington, but Mott opted to take the more conservative route. Unifying (6-1 on the morning line) is scheduled to break from post 9 under eight-time Oaklawn riding champion Ricardo Santana Jr.
“I’d like to win that condition, ideally,” Mott said. “You’re probably maybe facing a couple of horses that might be the same type of horse that you see in the Martha Washington, but I just wouldn’t want to throw her to the wolves right away, even though she ran a respectable race last time. I just thought the (allowance) other than that she’s in would be a decent spot for her.”
American Tattoo, who adds blinkers, marked Mott’s first career starter Nov. 2 at Churchill Downs. In his only Oaklawn start, American Tattoo finished fifth, beaten 4 ¼ lengths, in a Dec. 30 route for $30,000 claimers. American Tattoo (6-1) drops to a $20,000 claiming level for Friday’s 1-mile race.
Mott was in Arkansas overseeing his Oaklawn stable when American Tattoo, Unifying and a third starter, Spunk, ran at the Churchill Downs Fall Meet. Mott’s other 11 career starts have been in Hot Springs.
Probable post time for Friday’s eighth race is 3:53 p.m. (Central). Dear Lady, who broke her maiden sprinting Dec. 31 at Oaklawn for trainer Kenny McPeek, is the 9-5 program favorite.
Robertino Diodoro enters Friday with 297 career Oaklawn victories, including 18 to the lead the 2022-2023 standings.
Diodoro was Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 2020 and recorded his 3,000th career North American victory (United States and Canada) Jan. 7 at Oaklawn with Arthurian, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. Diodoro was the 37th trainer in North American history to reach the milestone, based on Equibase statistics.
Diodoro has four horses entered Friday at Oaklawn, three Saturday and three Sunday.
Only 14 trainers have reached 300 career victories at Oaklawn, the last being Ron Moquett of Hot Springs Dec. 10. Diodoro (a meet-high $914,789) is also trying to become the first trainer this season at Oaklawn to surpass $1 million in purse earnings.
Trainer Chris Hartman enters Friday with 198 career Oaklawn victories. Hartman was Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 2015 and is second this season with 13 victories from just 33 starts. Hartman also has seven seconds and five thirds at the meeting. He ranks second in purse earnings ($768,410).
Hartman has three horses entered Friday at Oaklawn, three Saturday and two Sunday.
After becoming the first female jockey in Oaklawn history to surpass $1 million in purse earnings at a meet last season, Kelsi Harr is poised to break another record.
Based on statistics from Equibase, Harr has amassed $2,775,444 in career purse earnings at Oaklawn. Cindy Murphy holds the Oaklawn record for career purse earnings by a female jockey ($2,792,644). The bulk of that total came between 1997 and 2006 when Murphy rode mostly as Cindy Noll.
Harr is named on three horses Friday at Oaklawn, four Saturday and three Sunday.
Harr, 30, began riding at Oaklawn in 2019 and has increased her purse earnings each season. She was Oaklawn’s leading apprentice jockey in 2020 with 11 victories and rode 18 winners at the 2021-2022 meeting, with her mounts earning $1,187,724 in purses. She has two victories this season.
Joe Petalino, Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 2000, enters Friday with 990 career North American victories, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. Petalino has 160 career Oaklawn victories, including one at the 2022-2023 meeting. …
Erick Medellin, Oaklawn’s leading apprentice jockey this season, recorded his third victory of the meeting in Sunday’s fourth race aboard Chapel Barn ($60.20) for owner/trainer Elueterio Altamirano. Sunday marked Medellin’s first day riding with a 5-pound weight allowance. He won seven races at the 2021-2022 Oaklawn meeting. …
Through Sunday, Day 15 of the scheduled 68-day meeting, 126 claims had totaled $2,862,500. Oaklawn reached 100 claims Jan. 13 (Day 13).