He's staying cool

The Baltimore Sun

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The first time trainer Graham Motion brought a horse to the Kentucky Derby, he couldn't wait to get the race over and return to his quiet barn in Maryland.

"That race was memorable for all the wrong reasons," said Motion, who brought Chilito to Churchill Downs in 1998 and finished 11th. "Chilito had won the Flamingo Stakes, when that was a great prep race to win, and we thought he belonged in the Kentucky Derby.

"But once we got him here, his behavior became a problem. He behaved very badly on Derby Day in the paddock. He was a big, strong horse who became very difficult to handle. I was mostly just relieved when the race was over and I was pretty adamant I wouldn't come back unless I felt I really belonged."

Ten years later, Motion is back with Adriano, a beautiful chestnut colt who is stabled in the same barn with fellow Fair Hill trainer Michael Matz and his entry, Visionaire.

While Maryland has no state-bred horses in tomorrow's Derby, it does have Adriano and Visionaire, who began their 2-year-old racing careers at Fair Hill.

For Matz, who won the Derby in 2006 with the late Barbaro and who received word Barbaro's younger brother, Nicanor, arrived at Fair Hill yesterday, seeing another Fair Hill trainer next door is not a surprise.

"When you have a facility like Fair Hill," Matz said, "you're going to attract both good trainers and good horses."

Trainer Larry Jones, who has entered the filly Eight Belles in the Derby, will join the Fair Hill crowd in three weeks when his new barn at the training center is ready for occupancy.

"When we leave here, Fair Hill will be the next stop for Eight Belles," Jones said. "She'll be the first horse to put her foot through the door."

Visionaire and Adriano offer interesting prospects for tomorrow. Neither is drawing much attention, but both have won Derby preps and both trainers are feeling good about their prospects.

"[Visionaire is] doing fine," Matz said. "He's coming into the race the right way and we'll find out if he's good enough. He's a horse that comes from off the pace. Hopefully, there will be enough pace in the race and horses will be coming back [to him]."

Adriano will likely be more forwardly placed. The colt, whose real 3-year-old birthday is three weeks away, has shown an increase in maturity during the past week.

Yesterday, Motion was feeling the excitement of the moment.

"I took him to school in the paddock and he was like an old jumper," Motion said. "He's really switched off, exactly the opposite of Chilito's experience. I've seen the good horses walking in the paddock and they have their heads between their legs and that's what you want.

"You can't have a horse walking out there all buzzed up because they have another 10 minutes to the track to deal with before they run."

Adriano has the pedigree for the Derby. A son of A.P. Indy, he has an all-star family tree that includes Seattle Slew, Mr. Prospector, Raise a Native and Secretariat.

Motion, 44 and a native of Herringswell, England, began his head-training career at Pimlico. He worked for the late Bernie Bond and eventually took over Bond's stable when he retired.

His first win came with Bounding Daisy at Laurel Park in 1993 and he earned his 1,000th victory at the same track in November 2006. Along the way, he has had several notable horses, including 2004 Breeders' Cup Turf winner Better Talk Now.

He said he'd like to win the Derby as much as anyone, but wants to make sure he does what is best for the horse. Yesterday, he felt those two desires had meshed.

"I'm really very happy with everything," he said. "He's doing well. Edgar Prado is riding. I'd love him to race well. I'd love to take him to the Preakness. My [American] roots are in Maryland."


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