Motion takes triple-barreled approach to G3 Kent Stakes
Golden Brown won the 2018 Kent Stakes. Photo by Allison Janezic
H. Graham Motion is among the nation’s top turf trainers, has thrived at Delaware Park, and has won the Grade 3 Robert G. Dick Memorial Stakes at the Stanton oval eight times.
So it’s somewhat of a surprise when a check of Delaware Park’s top 3-year-old grass stake, the Grade 3 Kent Stakes, which will be contested Saturday, revealed the English-born Motion had never won the race.
The man whose top horses include Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom and turf champion Main Sequence will take another shot at the nine-furlong Kent on Saturday, having entered three horses in the turf fixture. He may have his best chance with Solidify, a Tapizar colt who raced last season in Canada.
“(Trainer) Reade Baker had Solidify last season, and he won a graded stake (Grade 3 Grey) over the all-weather track at Woodbine.” Motion reported. “He’s been doing well since he settled in with us and I thought he ran a very creditable race last time out in the stake at Monmouth (the Tale of the Cat).”
Last early in the Tale of the Cat, Solidify and jockey Nik Juarez rallied nicely for third, three-and-a-half lengths behind winner Standard Deviation. It was his first start since October.
“He broke a bit slow and they ran pretty fast, but he still finished off nicely and I thought it was a good effort coming off a seven-month break,” Motion said. “There were some decent horses in the field (Including Empire of War, who is also in the Kent), and I think if he moves forward off that race he’ll give a good account of himself on Saturday.”
The Kent is an intriguing group. The aforementioned Empire of War won a stake on the grass at Aqueduct last fall and is the 3-1 morning line favorite. Award Winner (6-1) is bred to be a star. He is a half-brother to two millionaires, Oscar Performance, who won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf and three other Grade 1 races, and multiple graded winner Oscar Nominated.
Critical Data made his U.S. and 2019 debut in a very tough optional allowance race going a mile on the turf at Laurel and finished a fast closing third, beaten a neck 24-to-1 in a race that featured a middle quarter mile of :23.1. That day’s winner, Ghost Hunter, repeated July 5.
Then there’s Eons, who is going for his fourth straight win for the blistering hot Delacour barn. He’s the 4-1 second choice on the morning line.
It’s a fascinating race and Motion’s two other entrants, Shootin’ the Breeze and He’s No Lemon, who are a coupled entry, are interesting in their own right. Shootin’ the Breeze bobbled at the start of the Jimmy Murphy Stakes at Pimlico but overcame that early trouble to finish third to another Motion runner, English Bee. With the forecast calling for heavy rain in the area on Saturday and the possibility of the race being moved to the main track, Shootin’ the Breeze’s chances would only improve. His lone career win came at Tampa Bay Downs where he romped home by nine lengths in the slop.
He’s No Lemon has been racing with older runners in his last three, but he’s also been running at a mile and three furlongs and the result has been a win, close second (beaten a nose ) and a third in those three starts. Motion is hopeful his charge will be able to handle the turnback in distance to nine furlongs for the Kent.
“He seems to be able to settle better going a little longer,” Motion said. “Things are a little quicker going a mile-and-an-eighth, but he’s in good form right now. We’ve entered both for Mr (Alex) Campbell, and we’ll take a look at the weather and conditions before we decided whether to run one or both.”
Last year, Motion sent out the favorite in the Kent in the form of Untamed Domain, but that runner was a disappointing sixth behind upset winner Golden Brown.
“We’ve run some nice 3-year-olds in the Kent and just never got lucky,” Motion used. “Maybe we can break the ice Saturday.”