ELMONT, N.Y. -- Though he has competed in 22 consecutive editions of the Breeders' Cup, trainer Bill Mott broke a 12-year winless drought in the championship series when Unrivaled Belle captured last year's Ladies' Classic.
"They're hard to win," Mott said. "You've got to come loaded, you've got to come with good horses, the timing has to be right."
The timing is certainly right for To Honor and Serve, who punched his ticket to the Breeders' Cup Classic with a victory in last Saturday's $1 million Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Racing. He joins Courageous Cat (Mile) as two definite Breeders' Cup starters for Mott, who is in a four-way tie for fourth with six Breeders' Cup victories.
How loaded Mott will be for this year's Breeders' Cup, to be held Nov. 4-5 at Churchill Downs, will be determined this weekend when the Hall of Fame trainer sends out a bevy of prospects in Grade 1 races at Belmont Park.
Mott will send out Royal Delta in the $350,000 Beldame Invitational, the royally bred Deluxe in the $500,000 Flower Bowl Invitational, and the uncoupled tandem of Drosselmeyer and Birdrun in the $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational.
The 3-year-old Royal Delta will likely be second choice behind the 4-year-old Havre de Grace in the Beldame, but she continues to thrive in her morning training as evidenced by a terrific four-furlong workout in 47.05 seconds Monday morning over Belmont's main track. Working by herself under exercise rider Rodolphe Brisset, Royal Delta went her first quarter in 24.11 seconds and then sped home in 22.94. She galloped out five furlongs in 59.85.
"She's always worked well, but now she's really picking it up," Mott said. "It seems like she's coming into her own. Working like that, it's not like we're making her do it."
Royal Delta, a daughter of Empire Maker, is coming off an emphatic 5 1/2-length victory in the Alabama at Saratoga on Aug. 20. While most of her success has come in two-turn races, she did win a one-turn mile maiden race last fall at Belmont by 12 lengths.
Royal Delta will be the lone 3-year-old in a Beldame field that will include the leading older filly Havre de Grace and defending Beldame winner Life At Ten. Quiet Giant and/or Super Espresso, and Banker's Buy are possible.
On Monday at Delaware Park, Havre de Grace who defeated males in the Woodward last out, worked five furlongs in 1:02.80 over the main track.
Mott hoping distance aids Deluxe
With a race under her belt, Deluxe now steps up into Grade 1 company when she takes on Beverly D. winner Stacelita and three or four others in the Flower Bowl at 1 1/4 miles. Deluxe is certainly bred to be in here being a half-sister to Grade 1 winners Banks Hill, Cacique, Champs Elysees, Heat Haze, and Intercontinental. Coincidentally, Banks Hill (2001) and Intercontinental (2005) won the last two runnings of the BC Filly and Mare Turf held at Belmont Park.
In her North American debut, Deluxe finished a late-running second, beaten a head by Sugar Again in the Paris Opera Stakes going one mile. Mott knew the distance was to short, but Deluxe had not run in more than 10 months and he needed to get her started.
"I think the distance itself will move her forward," Mott said. "She's got to prove herself."
Denied permission by New York Racing Association officials to work Deluxe on the turf Monday, Mott worked Deluxe four furlongs in 51.17 seconds on dirt in company with the German-bred Rubber Duck. She did get her last quarter in 24.92.
Aruna, Distorted Legacy, and Emerald Beech are the others pointing to the Flower Bowl. Cheetah and Gitchee Goomie were issued invitations Sunday when an alternate list was put out.
Drosselmeyer, Birdrun eyeing BC Marathon
Though the Jockey Club Gold Cup is a stepping-stone to the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic, Mott's tandem of Drosselmeyer and Birdrun are more likely headed to the $500,000 Marathon. Both horses are expected to tune up in the Gold Cup against Travers winner Stay Thirsty and Suburban winner Flat Out.
Drosselmeyer, the 2010 Belmont Stakes winner, is coming off a last-place finish in the Sword Dancer Invitational in a turf experiment gone awry.
"I hope it was the turf," Mott said. "If it's more than the turf, we're in trouble."
Prior to the Sword Dancer, Drosselmeyer won an overnight stakes against Birdrun at 1 1/4 miles before finishing second to Birdrun in the Grade 2 Brooklyn at 1 1/2 miles.
Birdrun then finished second to A. U. Miner in the Greenwood Cup at Parx Racing on July 16, but hasn't run since. Mott said Birdrun -- who will be coupled in the wagering with Flat Out as both are owned by Preston Stables -- needed one race before the Marathon, and he felt the Gold Cup suited him best.
Birdrun has three wins and three seconds from six career starts at Belmont.
"The other option was the Hawthorne Gold Cup; it looks like there'll be a lot of speed in there as well with Rule in it," Mott said. "The horse has run well here, and if we could be first or second in that race that would be great."
On Monday, Birdrun worked five furlongs in 1:02.23 in company with the 3-year-old maiden Bellamy Brew. After going three furlongs in 38.34, the duo came home in a sharp 23.89.
Birdrun and Drosselmeyer aren't the only two looking to use the Gold Cup as a way to get to the Marathon. A. U. Miner also is pointing to the Marathon, but trainer Clark Hanna said A. U. Miner could show him he belongs in the Classic with a big performance Saturday.