Sister Otoole looking to achieve “main goal” in Dick Memorial

No trainer’s had more success in the Grade 3 Robert G. Dick Memorial Stakes than has Graham Motion. The 58-year-old, a native of Cambridge, England, has won the Dick eight times since its inception in 1997.

Luck being, as Branch Rickey called it, the residue of design, there’s some of both in that remarkable statistic.

“This is certainly a race that’s on our radar every year,” Motion said. “It’s a race that we tend to have horses for. It fits in the calendar, and it’s local, and we’ve had a little luck in it.”

There’s one other factor that makes the 11-furlong, grassy contest such a good spot for Motion-trained runners, and it’s one that to some extent he laments. There simply aren’t many chances – locally or even elsewhere – for horses not at the very top tier to race farther than a mile-and-a-quarter.

“Most of these [longer turf] races are Grade 1s and Grade 2s, and not all of these horses are Grade 1-Grade 2 horses,” he explained. “There are very few in between.”

Motion will saddle Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners’ Sister Otoole in Saturday’s renewal of the $200,000 Dick, and she makes the point nicely. The five-year-old Amira’s Prince mare’s better efforts fit best in listed or Grade 3 company, but those spots at longer distances just aren’t plentiful. So her last half-dozen tries include a Grade 2 race, a race on a synthetic surface, and a 1 mile 70 yard contest against Florida-breds.

Sister Otoole enters the Dick off a dismal outing in the Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay at Belmont Park in May. She finished last of four over yielding ground, beaten by 40 lengths. The winner won by 14 lengths, and no horse finished within six of any other.

No sweat, Motion said.

“It was just a very small field. We kind of went into it last minute, hoping to get a piece of it. And it was just so soft. Everybody was very strung out,” he said. “I just think it was a race that we put a line through.”

Fair enough. In her career, the lightly raced Sister Otoole has won two of 15 starts with seven other in-the-money finishes and earnings of nearly $200,000.

This year she’s been fourth or fifth in all four of her starts, but in two of them – the Grade 3 La Prevoyante at Gulfstream and the Grade 3 Orchid at the same track – she was beaten just two lengths.

She hasn’t raced since May 7 – by design – and is showing three works since mid-June.

“She’s doing fine,” the trainer said. “She was a little bit of a victim of me over-running her a couple of times over the winter. Races came up really light, and so we took a shot. But this has always been my sort of main goal.”

As befits a Grade 3 with a $200,000 purse, the Dick is no easy spot. The lukewarm morning line favorite is Temple City Terror (3-1), who arrives off a win in Keeneland’s Keertana Stakes and was third in this event a year ago. La Lune (5-1) for trainer Edward Vaughan won a Group 3 in England but is winless in five North American tries. Luck Money (6-1) was second in this event last year.

Motion will leg up Kendrick Carmouche, whom he describes as “a very capable rider,”  on Sister Otoole for the first time Saturday. Luis Saez, who’s been aboard six of the mare’s last eight starts, has mounts in two Grade 1 contests at Belmont on the same day.

And if he gets a little luck, perhaps the two will meet back in the winner’s circle afterwards. After all, it’s a place Motion has visited often.

Sister Otoole
Sister Otoole won an allowance at Belmont Park in July 2021. Photo by NYRA.