Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott has won 10 Breeders’ Cup races, including the Classic twice with Cigar (1995) and Drosselmeyer (2011), but perhaps his biggest achievement would come if he can upset the heavily favored Flightline in this year’s Classic that drew nine pre-entries Wednesday.
The 69-year-old Mott, at 45 the youngest thoroughbred trainer to be inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1998, will try to turn the trick with the ultra-consistent Olympiad, a 4-year-old son of Speightstown who’s won six of seven starts this year. He’s won only one Grade I, the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Saratoga on Sept. 3, but Mott believes he deserves a shot against the best Nov. 5 at Keeneland.
“He’s had a very good year,” Mott said during a national teleconference announcing the pre-entries for the 14 Breeders’ Cup races that total more than $31 million in purses and awards. “The only downfall he had was in the Whitney (fourth-place finish) and the dull race was slightly unexplainable other than the fact it was a very hot and humid day, probably one of the hottest days we had here, and he just seemed a little dull. That’s the only excuse I can give him. He was getting the trip he needed early in the race and just didn’t fire.”
Olympiad came back next time and fired plenty, winning the Jockey Club Gold Cup by two lengths while earning a spot in the Classic with his eighth victory in 12 starts and improving his lifetime bankroll to a shade more than $2 million.
“I’m very pleased with him,” Mott said. “He’s proven he’ll get the mile and a quarter, (but) he’ll have to be good on the day because this is a very competitive Classic, as it has been in the past. It’s a great race. It’s a great spectator’s race and, being a racing fan and somebody who loves to watch good horses, I’m anxious to see the race and glad that I’m in there to be part of it. I’m like everybody else, I’m lucky enough to have a horse in there, but anxious to see what happens.”
Perhaps Mott’s best chance to add to his Breeders’ Cup résumé is War Like Goddess in the $4 million Turf, which attracted 15 pre-entries. The 5-year-old English Channel mare has lost only once in four outings this year, a second-place finish behind Virginia Joy in the Grade II Flower Bowl at Saratoga on Sept. 3.
“I think she was as good as anybody in the Flower Bowl,” Mott said. “She didn’t win that day, but she was trapped down inside and didn’t really get the trip, and she was the victim of an extremely slow pace on that day. But other than that race, she’s always shown up.”
She beat the boys by 2¾ lengths in the Grade I Joe Hirsch Turf Invitational on Oct. 8 at Aqueduct and figures as one to beat in the 1½-mile Turf. Mott said War Like Goddess’ connections opted for the Turf over the $2 million Filly and Mare Turf because of the added distance. The latter race is only 1 3/16 miles.
“She’s been very competitive with whoever we’ve ever thrown her in with,” Mott said “She comes and runs her race. She displayed her talent the other day against the boys. She’s a really good filly. She’s very special and I’m anxious to see how she does against this group.”
This year’s Breeders’ Cup, the 39th edition, will kick off Nov. 4 at Keeneland with Future Stars Friday. All five Juvenile races will be run that day, followed by nine more Breeders’ Cup races for the older standouts the following day.
Bob Baffert and Doug O’Neill led Southland-based trainers with five pre-entries. Baffert has Taiba in the Classic and two, Cave Rock and National Treasure, in the $2 million Juvenile. O’Neill cross-entered Slow Down Andy in the $2 million Sprint and $1 million Dirt Mile and Awake at Midnyte in the $1 million Filly and Mare Sprint and the Distaff.
Overall, there were 205 pre-entries compared to 196 a year ago at Del Mar, including 45 from overseas and seven former or returning Breeders’ Cup champions.
Final entries will be taken Monday at Keeneland and post positions will be drawn at 11:45 a.m. PT.
When: Nov. 4-5.
Where: Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky.
Biggest race: $6 million Classic, including heavily favored Flightline.
Post-position draw: 11:45 a.m. PT Monday
TV: NBC, USA Network, Peacock and FanDuel TV.