Haskin Photo Journal: A Morning with Mott's Marauders

A chilly, cloudless October morning at Beautiful Belmont provided the setting for trainer Bill Mott and his band of Breeders' Cup big guns. First it was Royal Delta who hit the track at 6:45 for her half-mile work, followed by Flat Out, then Ron the Greek, and finally To Honor and Serve, who completes Mott's imposing trio for the Breeders' Cup Classic. There are few backdrops more aesthetic than Belmont on an invigorating autumn morning, with beautiful horses set against a deep cerulean sky. (All photos by Steve Haskin)


Royal Delta returns from her sharp :47 work.


Royal Delta seems to have a few words for the pony.


Royal Delta (right), draped in morning sunlight as she heads back to the barn.


Royal Delta cooling out. She barely raised a sweat in her work.


Royal Delta strikes a pretty pose in the morning sun.


Royal Delta casts a large shadow on the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic.


Erma Scott, who has been with Mott for 27 years, plants a kiss on her No. 1 love, Ron the Greek.


Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Flat Out anxiously waits his turn.


Flat Out gallops on the training track.


Flat Out and Mott return to the barn.


Mott (in blue jacket, center) lines up the next set for inspection.


Ron the Greek is getting bored standing around; time for some action.


Mott gives Ron the Greek's exercise rider some last minute instruction before his work in company.


Ron the Greek gets his game face on, as Mott prepares last-minute strategy.


One final look at the beautiful head of Ron the Greek.


Ron the Greek looking stately and ready as he gallops toward the pole for his work.


Ron the Greek and stablemate Armor charge down the Belmont stretch.


Ron the Greek and Armor pulling up after the work. Armor came back huffing and puffing and sweating up a bit, while Ron was hardly blowing.


Meanwhile, back at the barn, still waiting for Flat Out to prick his ears -- ain't gonna happen.


Ron the Greek cooling out. Just love his head and his kind eye.


The final set brings out the handsome To Honor and Serve.


One more big gun to fire, as To Honor and Serve awaits his turn.


Mott with his final instructions of the day.


To Honor and Serve wants no part of restraint at this point.


To Honor and Serve, as usual, with his head in the air. Unfortunately, I was busy yapping with Bobby Frankel's former assistant Jose Cuevas and Kiaran McLaughlin's assistant Artie Magnuson and was too late shooting him working. But he looked super. Ignominious way to end a very special morning. On to Santa Anita.

48 Comments

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Susan from VA

Ron the Greek does have a beautiful head.  Nothing to do with how he runs, but he is a beauty!

13 Oct 2012 8:03 PM
Steel Dragon

Outstanding shots. I wonder which gives you more satisfaction - your writing or your photography. Willie Mays for example was more proud of his defense than his offense.

13 Oct 2012 8:05 PM
steve from st louis

Steve, love your photography but your opinions are what brings a simple head shot of Ron the Greek to life for us. Since you spend half your life at the track in the morning, I'd love to read your take on what makes each track special in the mornings compared to race time in the afternoon. Which tracks are your favorites and why. Inquiring minds would love to read your take.

13 Oct 2012 8:17 PM
Karen in Indiana

Wow, Steve! You are so blessed to have a job that allows you to enjoy these animals & people.

Bill Mott seems to be such a good guy, Royal Delta is amazing, Flat Out is tough, and Ron the Greek is not only talented, but he looks like he's happy & enjoying life. Ron the Greek does have a beautiful head and one of the things about him that is so attractive is his contented expression.

13 Oct 2012 9:09 PM
Mary Zinke

Thank you so much for sharing these wonderful photos, especially of my love, Royal Delta.  

13 Oct 2012 9:44 PM
thesnowleopard

Nice photos, Steve. I especially like the ones of my girl, Royal Delta, and To Honor and Serve. Two other topics I hope you address in your blog: I understand they hope to bring Paynter back into training and onto the track. I was dismayed to hear this after all he's been through. It seems just having him alive should be enough. What do you think? And, can we attribute Camelot's poor Arc performance to his colic?

13 Oct 2012 10:12 PM
MRO

Just love Flat Out and To Honor and Serve!

13 Oct 2012 10:30 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Incredible photos. Motts horses look just amazing. Flat Out, Ron, Royal and To Honor all look to be the picture of health and conditioning. Has Flat Out ever looked better? I don't know if Steve has a basket catch but he has more home runs than any writer I know of.

13 Oct 2012 11:21 PM
Love 'em all

Erma Scott has good taste! Ron the Greek really is a pretty horse! Love all the pics, Mr. Haskin.

I was thirteen when my parents first took me to NYC and on up to Quebec Canada, which was a big deal back in 1953 for a kid from the Deep South. It was October, and I discovered leaves really do turn red and gold ... just like the pictures in the books! I see why horses love that area ... and love this time of year.  

14 Oct 2012 8:56 AM
Shelby's Best Pal

These beautiful photographs add more excitement to my Breeders' Cup trip.  Being able to see these special horses--priceless!

14 Oct 2012 9:40 AM
Helene

Very Dear Mr Haskin

THANK YOU SO MUCH for this beautiful photo essay!

As a seasonal Mott employee,

I am MISSING those horses (especially my gorgeous gentleman Flat Out.)  I so appreciate your work, I am forwarding these photos to many other who will as well.

14 Oct 2012 9:54 AM
Cassandra.Says

CAMELOT and NIJINSKY in the Arc:

You can attribute Camelet's colic to the Arc, not vice versa. Gut problems are common when a horse overtrains.

Nijinsky II, undefeated, went into the St. Leger amidst mutterings that it was a bad strategy. But he had Canadian connections and an ambitious management that meant to be more than the biggest frog in a small pond, so they were swayed by the prestige of the American Triple Crown, believing it would rub off on a winner of their less celebrated series.

Nijinsky won the St. Leger, but met his first defeat in the Arc. Entered again to go out on a high note, he ran badly, finishing third to horses he could towrope when normally fit and sound.

Many similarities here, so let them take warning and hear what the horse is telling them. He needs a break, to absolutely let down, not more distance races.

Neither of these horses were deficient in try. If they could have, they would have.

14 Oct 2012 10:16 AM
fb0252

Nice job!  Very informative!

14 Oct 2012 10:29 AM
jill786

Thanks Steve; Your posts add a bright spot in my morning; you never disappoint. What an enviable job you have, and thanks for sharing these moments with me.  

14 Oct 2012 10:45 AM
Pedigree Ann

"Nijinsky II, undefeated, went into the St. Leger amidst mutterings that it was a bad strategy. But he had Canadian connections and an ambitious management that meant to be more than the biggest frog in a small pond, so they were swayed by the prestige of the American Triple Crown, believing it would rub off on a winner of their less celebrated series."

The English Triple Crown was a prestigious series before any of the US Triple Crown races were even conceived. And long before the Kentucky Derby and especially the Preakness were considered classics. To call it a "less celebrated series" is absurd in the extreme.

Nijinsky's owner Charles Engelhard had owned horses who won the St. Leger three times before he sent Nijinsky into it, so he obviously had a liking for the longest classic. Oh, and the Canadian breeder EP Taylor sold the horse as a yearling; his opinions would have no impact on US citizen Engelhard (who lived part-time in Britain) nor on Irish trainer Vincent O'Brien. The reason some thought the St. Leger was a bad idea was because of the interruption in the horse's training schedule in August, due to a case of ringworm. It proved to be too much of an effort for a horse so recently ill.

14 Oct 2012 12:29 PM
Karen in Texas

Thanks, Steve! I really like your expanding foray into photo journalism! The pictures of the Mott horses, along with clever captions, are excellent!

14 Oct 2012 12:38 PM
Steve Haskin

Thanks, Dr. D, but unfortunately, these photo essays have been far from a home run. The numbers (views and comments) have been disappointing, so they're obviously not as popular as I had hoped. As you can see by the times of the comments, this one came six hours after the previous one. I think I'll stick to writing and maybe include a few photos with some of the stories if I have any.

Steel Dragon, its still my writing. My photos are taken with a Canon Power Shot pocket camera, so I'm far from a professional.

Thanks, Helene. Thats quite notch on your resume working for Bill.

14 Oct 2012 6:49 PM
Jockeygirl

What a beautiful, talented group! Thanks for the great pics!

14 Oct 2012 7:41 PM
JoyJackson21

Hi, Steve.  Thank you for the great photos of Mott's Marauders. You took some interesting shots that made some thoughts come roaring forward in my mind.

The first was that Royal Delta is certainly a classy-looking mare.  She stands very elegantly, feet crossed at the ankles, just like royalty.  She's well named.

Loved the shot of all of Mott's horses lined up, parade-style, waiting their turn to try out.  It made for a powerful picture.

Both Ron The Greek and To Honor And Serve looked like they belong in the military - bolt upright, proud, head held high, stately.  Quite impressive.

And Flat Out looked impatient and ready.  He just wanted to get the job done, period, no waiting around.  Impressive, but in a different way from THAS and RTG.

Mr. Mott has a contingent he can definitely be proud of going into the Breeders' Cup races.  Of the group, I do admit to having a soft spot for Royal Delta.  She always looks and acts regally to me.  She is uber talented, and, yes, impressive.  I wish all of Bill's marauders great good luck on Breeders' Cup weekend.

14 Oct 2012 9:56 PM
steve'sphil

I like the photo essay. I just don't comment on them. I always read your posts and look at your pics. Maybe there are others like me, looking but not commenting.

14 Oct 2012 10:33 PM
Paula Higgins

Well Steve, I think your photography is first rate. Having a face to put with the stories is nice, and what impressive faces/heads they are. Ron the Greek is drop dead gorgeous. Royal Delta is a Queen if ever I saw one. It will be an exciting Breeders Cup series.

14 Oct 2012 11:42 PM
Linda in Texas

steve'sphil then there are people like me who get tired of seeing my name so i am sure others do also. And i wish i could post anonymously but someone would figure out who i was in a quick minute. I comment too much so i should make up for those who don't.

Steve, loved the photos. So proud of Erma Scott to have worked lovingly it appears, with Mr. Mott for 27 years. And That Ron The Greek estan magnifico. Such a regal way he carries himself. And yes he does have those soft eyes. Thanks so much to Ms. Scott, I am sure Ron calls her Erma, for taking care of him, he is obviously in great hands. And i wonder if Erma spoils Ron and brings him Baking Powder Biscuits for Breakfast on Sunday Morning,it isn't Sunday without Biscuits!

And please Steve don't put your camera away. Do you know how great it is to get up and hit the computer, bloodhorse.com to be exact and head to the Haskin Group and catch up on stuff mit photos yet?  They affect each of us in different ways. I have loved pictures in books since i was in the first grade. I would get a new primer and immediately look at the pictures first, then read the book! Books with no photos or pictures were dull and not attention span enhancers! They are what inspired my son to name our first Dalmation Freckles and our Bird Dog Spot! And our female Jack Russell Terrier mix Sparkie! And her pups Rascal, Mugsy and Cissy. And i could go on. Those were all names of dogs pictured in his reading books. And all rescues among many over the years i might add and ongoing.

Thanks Steve. Hopefully the weather at Santa Anita will be a little warmer for you than in the east.

Have a great trip.

Linda

15 Oct 2012 2:02 AM
Steve Haskin

Linda, it's not the comments. I certainly dont expect people to comment on all the columns. It's the number of views that are down on the photo essays. It takes time to send Content Management the photos and takes time for them to post them, so I'm just not sure it's worth it. I'll still be posting photos with some of the stories; it's just the full photo essays like this one that I'll probably cut out.

15 Oct 2012 2:41 AM
Cassandra.Says

Pedigree Ann:

Not to go back to the 1800s, the reason the English Triple Crown has been so rarely won in the past 80 years is that it is rarely contested. The prestigious fall race is the Arc and the prevailing British opinion, now upheld once again, is that it is too much to ask a three-year-old to run one and three quarters and then, in such a short time, cut back to one and a half against 20 or so of the very best of all ages.

Before Nijinsky and Camelot, Ribocco was probably the best to try the double, and after winning the St. Leger he was third in the Arc and 7th in the Washington D.C. Int'l.

Englehard did indeed like the St. Leger -- Englehard liked stayers and loved Ribot. Indiana was nothing but a stayer, Ribero and Ribocco were Ribots (nuff said), only Ribocco was a top class colt but he would have had to sweep his final three races to be champion 3-yr-old and he wasn't a TC contender.

O'Brien came to the Canadian yearling sale to buy a Ribot in the Windfields' consignment, didn't like him, but saw Nijinsky. The mere sight of Nijinsky as a yearling quickened the pulse. I saw him sold but didn't know who he'd gone to -- I was sick to find out the next morning he was being exported.

I wasn't in the room so I didn't overhear conversations between Englehard, O'Brien and E.P., but there were certainly many during the summer when Nijinsky was being syndicated. E.P. was not a market breeder at heart, and was given to seller's remorse. After he sold a top colt he usually tried to buy him, or part of him, back. Sometimes he made such deals before the colt went into the ring.

Ringworm is a rash, not an illness. Jock itch and athlete's foot are varieties. It reflects badly on a horse's condition but doesn't mess up his training, requiring only a week or so of working around it. The horse is not, for instance, restricted to his stall. You just don't want to irritate the skin with a saddle. I can't imagine it would go undetected in O'Brien's stable, even back then, long enough to become a serious infection.

There are wonderful horses but there are no "super" horses. You can always go too often to the well.  

15 Oct 2012 6:06 AM
TripleCrownKaren

Steve, once again a WONDERFUL job with the photos.   It's so nice to actually see these racehorses in a context of just "being" horses!   Love the shot of Royal Delta getting "snappy" with the lead pony....That's "mare" attitude for ya!   Most folks think it's the stallions you have to watch out for, but get an "alpha mare" in a bad mood and Watch out!

Once again your photos make me "homesick" for the North and the wonderful colors of Autumn (not so much here in Florida, but then we don't have to deal with SNOW either).  

15 Oct 2012 8:27 AM
JerseyBoy

Cassandra.Says:

I read your last entry. I do not know how you came to your conclusions but you need to check your facts again.

You wrote “The prestigious fall race is the Arc and the prevailing British opinion, now upheld once again, is that it is too much to ask a three-year-old to run one and three quarters and then, in such a short time, cut back to one and a half against 20 or so of the very best”.

That is your opinion, not the British opinion.

Did you consider the horse, Alleged?. He was second in the St Leger. He won the ARC twice, once as a 3yo.

You are dealing with a fallacy. The primary issue is always whether the horse is talented enough.

“In the inaugural International Classification, collaboration between the official handicappers of Britain, France and Ireland, Alleged was rated the best European horse of 1977 with a rating of 138. He was again rated the best European horse in 1978 with a rating of 140.

Alleged was given a Timeform rating of 137 in 1977 and 138 in 1978”. Wikipedia.

It is the talent of the individual horse that matters. Age has nothing to do with it.

Camelot is rated 128 by Timeform.

15 Oct 2012 9:05 AM
Linda in Texas

I appreciate your hard work and all who assist the fruition from camera to view on your blogs.

Had you just mentioned Ms. Scott without the photo of her with Ron the Greek, the sentiment of it would have been totally missed. But then i am a into that part of everything in life especially people and horses and animals.

Thanks so much for your wonderful

articles, with or without photos, as i have a wonderful imagination.

have a great imagination

15 Oct 2012 9:13 AM
steve from st louis

An Open Note to Ron Mitchell, Marla Bickel: Sometimes a movie is produced which is a critical success but does not follow as a box office winner. Steve Haskin has indicated his photo essays somehow follow that path. If you notice, however, those who comment aren't necessarily the "regulars" from his successful blog; they seem to be women for the most part who connect with the visual beauty of those "bloodhorses" featured. Does the number of Haskin posts equal the "over the top" tug of war popularized by Jason Shandler in his blog with his Draynay character? Hardly. Does that mean Haskin's photo esssays aren't carrying their water? Again, people may be viewing them without replying. One thing I'm sure of: Haskin's blog is the main reason I visit this site and another thing I know--I'm not alone.

15 Oct 2012 9:53 AM
slee

Count me in as a fan of the images.  In this set, I vote for the one of Royal Delta in the morning's slanting sun.  A wonderful image.

Ron the Greek in action looks more like a Roman frieze than a Greek!

I must say that the whole set made me want to go get some coffee to warm up!  

Thanks for the fine images this morning - they all whet the appetite for what's to come at Santa Anita in a few weeks time.

15 Oct 2012 2:15 PM
Ranagulzion

Cassandra.Says & Pedigree Ann,

Very interesting rumble over Nijinsky and, The St Leger/Arc/Triple Crown bid. Quite a neat digression.  You go girls.

Steve,

Any 2YOs from the Mott barn?

15 Oct 2012 2:58 PM
OsoDelDesierto

Steve, I'm a longtime fan of both your marvelous writing and your beautiful photography, who has never taken the time until now to post a comment to tell you how much I appreciate your work - I'm sorry to have waited so long!

I think your photo essays are amazing, and I'm grateful to see the horses and people who fill your writing in such vivid and unique deatil, particularly in an essay or series rather than a single shot appended to a blog, especially since I live far from major tracks where most of the essays are shot and will not likely get to see these beauties - Royal Delta, Ron the Greek, and so many others - in person.

I'm certain that there are far more people like me who appreciate these photo essays (and those by other photographers as well) than you or Blood Horse may realize, even if views appear to be down. I say this not only as a site viewer but also as a consumer who has purchased a number of books - including yours - from BH, so I do represent an opinion from an actual source of revenue for the publication and not just a lurker. Please don't stop - it's worth the time and trouble that Content Managment undergoes and I heartily thank you for the effort.

15 Oct 2012 4:42 PM
Steve Haskin

Thank you, Oso, I really appreciate that. I think your words have convinced me to continue the photo essays, in spite of the numbers. Btw, I will have a blog and photos posted tonight of Paynter arriving at his Fair Hill rehab facility this morning. Hope you enjoy it.

15 Oct 2012 8:43 PM
carol in utah

I love all the photos....but Flat Out looks fit to do anything ....what muscles...hope the new shoes work well....

15 Oct 2012 8:55 PM
saharagold

Nooo, Steve!  Please don't quit doing these photo essays!  "A picture's worth a thousand words."  I loved your photo essay about Paynter arriving at Fair Hill, too.

Last but not least, I have a nifty little Canon Power shot, too.  Takes pretty good pics for a little camera, doesn't it?  Sometimes I get "camera envy" seeing the folks at Santa Anita with their fancy (and expensive) DSLRs.  But these pics are all quite satisfactory.  Don't give up!  Your photos really help me feel like I was there!!

16 Oct 2012 1:45 AM
Ellie

Yeah, Steve, keep the photos coming! Photos combined with your writing- seriously, it doesn't get better than that. One of the best things that Zenyatta, Barbaro, and now Paynter have done is open the door for us fans to be able to see their lives beyond the racetrack. I love the race photos, but I'm so keen to see the "behind the scenes" stuff. That's where it all really happens. We were able to follow Barbaro's ups and downs, and marvel at how far equine medicine has come. Same with Paynter and Mr. Zayat's awesome updates, and now with your awesome update and PHOTOS! I want to see Paynter's bright eyes on the van- made my day! And as good a writer you are, sorry Steve, that's something ya just gotta see to appreciate it! With Z, I got to see the retirement process....fascinating! And I never knew they had heatlamps in the foaling stalls........I could go on and on. Keep it going, Steve. Keep the door open so we can see the wonderful people and horses, and how they plant those kisses! LOVE Erma with Ron The Greek. I never realized he was that pretty 'till I saw that photo...........    

16 Oct 2012 5:20 AM
WarmInWpg

I love your columns Steve because I learn so much.  The insider's view of racing that you provide is just fantastic and unique!  And the recent addition of photos adds a lot.  I rarely comment (I must be a 'lurker') but I check in often.

I especially loved the photos of your daughter visiting the racing 'elite'.

16 Oct 2012 7:48 AM
Pedigree Ann

Your photos are important for those of us who won't get to see these horses in person. Race-finish and winner's circle photos don't give the same feeling that candid fan photos do. (You can't tell me you aren't a fan of these accomplished horses.) Carry on, please.

16 Oct 2012 9:51 AM
Abigail Anderson

Steve: I was interested to read your observation above about the fact that these are less of a "home run" than you'd thought they'd be, because I find these photo essays say so much about the life around the barns and the "Mott Gang" that never gets said. But I agree that your incisive & cutting-edge reporting "signature" precedes you, in terms of your readership.

That said, I just loved this photo collection -- and especially the ones of Ron The Greek. Thank you so much! I really do hope that you pursue the photo journalism too -- and especially at places like the Breeders' Cup.

16 Oct 2012 10:14 AM
Saratoga AJ

Excellent photos and captions.

I especially love those two pics of Royal Delta heading back to the barn in the early morning sunrise. Either would make outstanding framed pictures in 8x10 ot 11x14.

16 Oct 2012 1:28 PM
SJG Tucson

Fabulous pictures, Steve. Thanks so much for this "photo essay." 25 photos: equiv of 25,000 words

16 Oct 2012 1:52 PM
deb

so very nice.........

16 Oct 2012 2:20 PM
PioneerCountry

Steve,  add me to the group who love your photo essays.  I read your every blog but really enjoy all your pics.  Pls continue to post them!

16 Oct 2012 3:11 PM
LucyWG

  I enjoy the pictures of the horses since I will not get to see them in person.  Ron the Greek does have a well-shaped head and a kind eye.  It is often said that indicates a kind disposition. This may or may not be true (I never had a horse with an ugly head but a couple of my pretty-headed horses were stinkers!) and I have known some really nice, roman-nosed critters. I, however, do prefer a pretty face and I have a feeling that horses with refined heads may be more sensitive in the mouth.  A good head usually comes on a good neck with a thinner throatlatch, which makes it more likely that the horse will flex and give to the bit...

 Anyway, I ramble.  I am now, however, a fan of Ron the Greek!

16 Oct 2012 3:39 PM
michelee

Steve: Please, PLEASE don't stop with

the photo essays! Your pix are about the only way a lot of us will get to see these magnificent animals--the older we get the harder it is to make the trip, and for a 40-year railbird who treasures every nick, wrap and eye, that's tough.  I treasure the shots you bring us. And oh yes: Ron the Greek isn't pretty.  He's gorgeous!

16 Oct 2012 5:55 PM
Delrene

Dear Steve - Please, please keep up the photo shoots and the writing.  I love them and I think most everyone does.  Some of these horses we may never see unless we go to the Breeder's Cup.  Already read the PUP story at Fair Hill.  Thanks to all who helped him on his journey to good health.  Appears he is doing so much better.

16 Oct 2012 6:14 PM
PomDeTerre

great pix, but THAS does NOT belong in the classic.  keep him at a mile

16 Oct 2012 8:34 PM
PomDeTerre

ron the greek will make one helluva dressage horse when his racing days are done

16 Oct 2012 8:42 PM
bellesforever

I do not usually comment and don't always get here the same day you do these posts but please keep your camera on hand because I really do adore the pictures you take..they are done in real time not manicured and edited and because of that they are somehow more meaningful..Please keep the canon loaded and ready to go Steve!Thank you!

18 Oct 2012 5:13 PM

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