Motion barn looks to keep hot streak going

Even as summer’s official start is heralded by a major heatwave passing through the Mid-Atlantic region, the season is only just catching up with trainer Graham Motion.

Since May 19 – three days before the native of Cambridge, England turned 60 – Motion has won with 15 of 37 starters, a success rate of 41 percent. With four seconds and seven thirds, his horses have finished in the money 26 times (70 percent).

Nowhere has Motion’s success been more pronounced than during Laurel Park’s summer meet, a 33-day stand which began May 31. He has sent out eight horses over the first nine racing days with five wins (63 percent), one second and one third. Tied for second in the trainer standings, two wins behind Jamie Ness, Motion is tops with $197,755 in purse earnings.

“It’s definitely cyclical,” Motion said. “We’re pretty quiet over the winter anyway. We tend to rest up some of the grass horses, and we’ve had plenty of horses with conditions coming back off layoffs. Look, it’s been nice. It doesn’t always work out this way, but we’ve had a good run without a doubt. And I feel like we’ve got some nice horses right now.”

Laurel resumes its summer meet with a nine-race program starting at 12:25 p.m. Friday. Motion, a winner of more than 2,700 career races and three-time finalist for induction into the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame, has one horse entered each of the next three days.

Friday he will send out Eleleus, a 4-year-old gelding he and wife, Anita, co-bred and co-own with Sycamore Hall Thoroughbreds. By millionaire Irish War Cry, whom Motion trained to five wins from 13 starts including the Pimlico Special (G3) in 2018, Eleleus drew Post 5 in an overflow field of 12 in Race 4, a claiming event for maidens ages 3, 4 and 5 scheduled for 1 1/16 miles on the Fort Marcy turf course.

Eleleus debuted against his elders last November on the dirt at Laurel, finishing eighth, and went unraced until running eighth again in a one-mile maiden claimer May 27 on the Pimlico grass, pressing a sharp pace and forging a short lead in the stretch before tiring. He is in Friday for a $30,000 tag.

“He probably needed the last race,” Motion said. “He’s a horse that’s had his issues [and] his growing pains, but he has a very patient owner.”

Motion will unveil Boardshorts’ Sharedashenanigans in Saturday’s opener, a maiden special weight for 2-year-old fillies sprinting five furlongs on the main track. Boardshorts, the nom de course of Oregon coffee billionaire Travis Boersma, paid $500,000 for the daughter of Into Mischief last fall at Keeneland.

Sharedashenanigans is the first foal out of the Speightstown mare Sharing, who earned more than $1 million for Motion winning five of nine starts including the 2019 Selima at Laurel and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1), also running second in the 2020 Coronation (G1) at Royal Ascot.

Boardshorts, managed by former Sagamore Farm president Hunter Rankin, sent Sharedashenanigans to Motion knowing his connection with the family. Motion trained Sharing’s mare, Sagamore’s 2010 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) winner Shared Account, and still has multiple graded-stakes winner Sparkle Blue, the last foal out of the mare Silk n’ Sapphire, the dam of Shared Account.

Graham Motion
Graham Motion at Delaware Park in 2018. Photo by Allison Janezic.

Sparkle Blue won her debut on dirt Aug. 17, 2021 at Colonial Downs, as did Shared Account Oct. 31, 2008 at Laurel. Sharing’s first win also came on the main track in her second start, Aug. 18, 2019 at Saratoga. Sharedashenanigans will be ridden by Victor Carrasco from Post 6 in a field of seven.

“It’s obviously exciting because we’ve had so much of that family. I’d expect she wants the turf eventually, but she’s really handled the dirt well so I kind of got together with those guys and we made the decision to start her on the dirt,” Motion said. “It’s a really good family and to have another generation now is pretty cool, I must say.”

Since mid-April Sharedashenanigans has had 10 combined breezes over the dirt and all-weather surfaces at the Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md., where Motion is based. Her workmate, the $100,000 Global Campaign filly Warming, debuts Friday at Aqueduct.

“They were really nice to send me this filly. I haven’t trained for these guys much so it’s definitely exciting to have her. She hasn’t missed a beat,” Motion said. “These will be our first two 2-year-old starters.”

Motion is represented Sunday at Laurel by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Madaket Stables and Highlight Thoroughbreds’ Union Suit, a daughter of 2012 Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Union Rags, in Race 8, an optional claiming allowance for 3-year-old fillies sprinting six furlongs.

Union Suit was purchased privately after capturing her debut last May at Horseshoe Indiana, finishing second in the 5 ½-furlong Astoria at Belmont Park in her first start for Motion before going to the sidelines. She has also been working steadily since mid-April for her return.

“Union Suit we had to give some time off last summer,” Motion said. “She looked to be really promising. I took her up to Saratoga to run and she came up with an issue. We gave her plenty of time off. This filly has been training great. I’ve been really pleased with her.”

April 20 at Laurel Motion won the Dahlia with Five Towns and ran 1-2 in the Henry S. Clark with Dataman and English Bee, Dataman going on to win the May 25 Cliff Hanger at Monmouth Park in his second start of the year. This year Motion has also won the American Turf (G2) with Trikari and Belmont Gold Cup (G2) with The Grey Wizard.

“There’s been a couple surprises in the group. I’ve always liked Trikari but I never could have imagined he could have turned out to be as good as he is. Dataman, there’s another one that’s improved so much from 3 to 4. He’s obviously a much-improved horse,” he said. “A couple of these horses that either got hurt or had some time off have come back really strong.”

On Father’s Day, Motion sent out 3-year-old filly Toupie for a popular win in Laurel’s $100,000 Stormy Blues, her second career stakes win, besting 12 rivals under jockey Jorge Ruiz, who has ridden three of Motion’s five winners at the summer meet. Toupie will be pointed to the 5 ½-furlong Coronation Cup on turf July 12 at Saratoga.

“She ran kind of like I hoped and thought she would. She’ll definitely go down as the most improved horse in my barn from 2 to 3. Once she broke the other day and she was in a good position, I would have been surprised if she’d been beaten. The only thing that concerned me was the big field, and I thought it was a competitive field to be honest,” Motion said. “I liked the timing of that race to go to Saratoga for the Coronation Cup. I think that’s the logical next step for her.”