Saratoga Springs, New York
Sometimes when horses have a bad run, their trainers just act like it never happened. The Bill Mott Hall of Fame is not one of them.
As he prepares to send the Olympiad into the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) at Saratoga on Saturday, he is troubled by the 4-year-old’s fourth-place finish in the August 6 Whitney (G1). – and he does not hesitate to admit it.
“I guess you can’t draw a line through this. You have to watch it. It’s there,” he said. “You just have to hope he comes back and runs better next time.”
To add to the mystery, the 4-year-old son of crack sprinter Speightstown had won five straight this season before his whiff of Whitney. The streak consisted of an optional indemnity claiming victory at Gulfstream Park, the Mineshaft (G3) and New Orleans Classic (G2) at Fair Grounds and the Alysheba (G2) and Stephen Foster (G2) at Churchill Downs.
He traveled so well and was so well regarded before the Whitney that he became the second choice in betting, behind the highly rated Life Is Good. But he was boring throughout the prestigious 1 1/8 mile contest and no match for Life Is Good, Happy Saver or Hot Rod Charlie, the top three. He came fourth of the five starters, ahead of only the distant Zoomer.
Regular runner Junior Alvarado, who retains the mount for the $1.25 million Gold Cup, felt helpless during the Whitney after running the Olympiad with such confidence before that.
“He didn’t run his race,” Alvarado said afterwards. “At the half mile, I knew I was in trouble. He wasn’t traveling or picking it up like he normally does.
It was only the second time the Olympiad failed in 11 career starts. His other misfire occurred on his only other freshman tryout, when he fell short of the American Revolution in the Dec. 4 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct. Americanrevolution runs a quartet of Gold Cup starters for Hall of Fame coach Todd Pletcher.
Olympiad, a $700,000 buy at Keeneland’s September yearling sale, is 11:7-1-1 overall. He won $1,472,560 on behalf of LNJ Foxwoods, Grandview Equine and Cheyenne Stable, with $1,307,120 coming this year.
The horse has already tested Mott’s immense patience. He broke his maiden in Saratoga on Sept. 5, 2020, in his second career outing, then didn’t start again until he placed second in an allowance race at the lovely north track of New York State on September 4, 2021.
“We always loved it,” Mott said. “We were just waiting for him to recover from some physical issues he had as a baby, waiting for him to mature.”
As Mott reflects on the Whitney and looks to the 1 1/4 mile Gold Cup, which grants the winner an automatic, paid place in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, one source of hope is a significant change in the surface of race. from the Whitney. The clay was added to the track after a number of prominent trainers complained that it was too deep and tiring.
“The track should be a little tighter, a little faster,” Mott noted. “Maybe he’ll appreciate that.”
The winner of multiple graduated stakes returned to the work tab on August 19 with an impressive four-stadia drill in 48.88 seconds, which ranked second of 34. In his only other move before the Gold Cup, he covered four furlongs in a more modest 49.9 seconds on August 28.
No physical problem could be found to explain the Whitney. The colt has not missed any training since then. He will emerge from Post 2 as part of a strong eight-horse field.
Mott cautions against attaching too much weight to the Whitney when the rest of the horse’s work is so impressive. “It’s the only mediocre race he’s had this year,” he said. “Now I wouldn’t want to see him do that again.”
Mott is a candidate for his fourth Gold Cup triumph. His most memorable success in the storied race came in 1995, when Cigar won as part of his unforgettable 16-game winning streak.
. Mott hope Olympiad can bounce in Gold Cup Jockey Club