Derby Drought

One of these years it's gonna happen.

And it's gonna be sooner than later. The law of averages says so.

What am I talking about? The Kentucky Derby drought that has followed three of the best trainers in the world - Bill Mott, Todd Pletcher and Steve Asmussen. Though between them they have more than $420 million in purse money and nearly 10,000 wins, the dynamic trio is a combined 0-for-30 on Derby day. Somehow, that doesn't seem possible.

This year, with each of them having top-notch contenders, there is a very good chance that the drought will finally end - at least for one of them.

Mott has done everything there is in the sport except win on racing's biggest day. The New York resident has won multiple training titles at the best racetracks on the East Coast, has won more races at Churchill Downs than anyone else, is third in all-time earnings, has had success at the Breeders' Cup, and trained Cigar, perhaps the best horse in the last 25 years. But he is 0-for-4 in the Derby, with Favorite Trick (8th in 1998) being his best finish, and has not had a starter since Blue Burner in 2002.

That will change this year, as Mott, who had a huge year in 2007, finally has a barn full of young stars. In all, he has five 3-year-olds hot on the Derby Trail, including Remsen winner Court Vision, Majestic Warrior and Z Humor, who all took action in Pool 1 of the Future Wager. How many will ultimately make it to the starting gate May 3 is still unknown, but one thing is for sure: Mott is long overdue, even for someone who is best known for his work with older horses.

Pletcher has not been around as long as Mott, but talk about overdue! Since 2000, Pletcher has saddled an amazing 19 Derby starters, but has never done better than third (Impeachment). Last year, with a record-tying five starters in the Derby, Pletcher was expected to break the jinx, but it never materialized. The man has owned the sport for the past half-decade, setting and then breaking his own records for stakes wins and earnings multiple times, and winning four consecutive Eclipse Awards. But still no Derby, and that will continue to dog him as long as he stays winless.

Rags to Riches' win in last year's Belmont had to be a load of Pletcher's back, as he finally got an elusive Triple Crown victory. Pletcher won't have five Derby starters in 2008, but so far he's got a pair of good-looking colts in Cowboy Cal and Monba. Is this his year?

Also with at least a pair of contenders is Asmussen, who may be next in line to dethrone Pletcher as the nation's top trainer. It's not as though Asmussen is desperate for a Derby right now, coming off Curlin's Horse of the Year campaign which included Preakness and Breeders' Cup Classic wins. Nonetheless, the Texas native has had seven Derby starters without a victory, including a pair in each of the last two years.

With Pyro, whose breathtaking performance in the Risen Star made him the Pool 1 favorite, and Z Fortune, it looks as though Asmussen will be right back in the thick of things in 2008. But will he get the Derby monkey off his back?

Will any of them?


Leave a Comment:


I think Zito is looking pretty good so far as well.

25 Feb 2008 4:38 PM

Bobby Frankel ran a maiden to win a grade I at Keeneland. Would he be bold enough to try her against the boys? She certainly an impressive filly and thinking about Rags to Riches beating Curlin in the Belmont; is it a reach to imagine her doing it to the boys?

25 Feb 2008 6:55 PM
Bill Schneider

Nice story. I read that War Pass looked great in winning on Sunday. Could War Pass do it again in the Tampa Bay Derby?

26 Feb 2008 1:07 AM

maybe dope tests on derby day are tighter. who knows.

26 Feb 2008 1:18 AM

Make it 0 for about 38, Barclay Tagg will nip them all this year.

26 Feb 2008 11:38 AM
Bryce Be Quick

Humm- I thought Mott was from my Mom's native South Dakota? Regardless, if one of the three to break through this year, I hope it's Mott- strikes me as a real horseman, like a Barclay Tagg and a Michael Matz-- guys that listen to the horse and are smart enough to place the horse first and their egos second. Court Vision a quality guy and seemingly has the heart of a fighter.

26 Feb 2008 2:50 PM

Bryce is correct. Mr. Mott is from S Dakota. His operations have been NY based. A true horseman and gentleman.

26 Feb 2008 7:57 PM
J Mitt

I really like Zito's chances.

26 Feb 2008 8:45 PM

Mott is really due, it's gotta be him

26 Feb 2008 9:07 PM

Mott and Desormeaux have been a good couple last year. Maybe this will be the year for both in Derby.

27 Feb 2008 5:34 PM


27 Feb 2008 7:42 PM

So much can happen between now and May 3rd.  Some good horses running this Saturday in the Sham.

27 Feb 2008 8:04 PM
Pat Day

I wish I could have my ride on Easy Goer back.....He was the best horse to ever race in the Derby !!!!

28 Feb 2008 6:59 PM

This is Mott's year but would like to see barclay tagg.

29 Feb 2008 6:53 AM

What about El Gato Malo? One of the experts at Globeform has him in his top 3, between War Pass and Pyro. We'll see how he does in the Sham.

29 Feb 2008 5:42 PM
Janet Nevins

I can't get Pryo's last race out of my mind, I think Asmussen is in a good place right now.

29 Feb 2008 5:47 PM

When was (if ever and someone correct me if I'm wrong) that Bill Mott got suspended for a medication violation, etc?  I don't think you can compare Mott to the other trainers.  Maybe that is the reason he hasn't been part of the TC in a long while.  I think he plays by rules and does it as a "horseman".

01 Mar 2008 12:51 AM

Nice story.  Would like to see one of the old veteran trainers win the derby.

01 Mar 2008 8:55 AM
Matthew W

Steve has a big chance, I love his horse Pyro, but he'll have his hooves full with Georgie Boy, who, dispite running on Poly, is passing some good horses in startling fashion--those horses he's passing are not tiring--they're being outkicked by a real good horse!!

17 Mar 2008 11:15 PM
Matthew W

Kathy Walsh has lived the life, and held her own vs the very best in the West--now, she has a horse with "the look".....of a contender--if he gets the distance, and that's a big IF---the obscure trainer, with the obscure, strong jock Mike Baze, and the obscurely bred Georgie Boy---can get the roses---like I said--dunno if he gets the ! 1/4, he just has that look of a real good one........

20 Mar 2008 2:39 AM
Billy D.

What about Ron McAnally or Bobby Frankel? These guys were winning stakes races long before Pletcher even held a shank. If anyone is overdue to win the derby I think it's McAnally. Here's a trainer who has had most of his success with older horses & fillies. This would remind me of Mack Miller winning a Derby for Mr. Mellon. Great for the game. I do like Colonel John this year though. Throw out War Pass who's breeding says "speed" (see Favorite Trick) and throw out Pyro who's low Beyers couldn't win a baking contest, let alone a Derby. Big Brown is too inexperienced to win the roses (see Curlin).

01 Apr 2008 12:50 PM

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