The year was 1996 and conditioner Bill Mott was training Cigar and the Dubai World Cup halfway around the world was on the horizon. Mott had no idea what to expect when shipping the 1995 United States Horse of the Year there.
Fast forward 25 years and the inaugural Saudi Cup is now the richest race in the world with its US$20,000,000 purse. Mott is here again, this time with the Juddmonte Farms-owned Tacitus and the unique opportunity to capture the inaugural running of both races.
“I did have some connections over there that had previously worked for me – one being a veterinarian and one being an assistant trainer, so I had a certain comfort level there,” Mott recalls of his visit to Dubai. “They told me what they could, but we didn’t know what the facilities were going to be like. For a kid from South Dakota going over there, it was like going to another world.
“You probably have as much as issue dealing with the time change as anything. You wonder about the horse’s sleep pattern because people’s sleep patterns get messed up pretty good with the difference in the time change.”
Cigar of course won that race, at the time the world’s richest race, and forever changed United States-based trainers’ opinion with regard for international travel. Horses routinely shipped from Europe to the States for the Breeders’ Cup but it seldom occurred in the reverse direction. Had Cigar run poorly or demonstrated poor form on his return to the United States, North American-based horses would likely not be shipped overseas as often as they are now.
Considering Tacitus, Mott said: “This is like the icing on the cake to be able to be here and participate in this race. It’s exciting. The great connections I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to be involved with Juddmonte wanted to participate in (the Saudi Cup) and they’re excited as well.”
While Mott’s 28-year-old son Riley has been with the 4-year-old Tapit colt since his arrival in Saudi Arabia, the elder Mott arrived late on Wednesday night and is more than pleased with what he has seen.
“You’ve got first-class facilities here like the quarantine centre and the way it’s set up and managed,” Mott said. “To have this race go off for the first time. They’ve done a terrific job getting everything prepared on such short notice.
“We’ve had some connections there. We’ve seen pictures so I think we’ve got a lot more confidence going into this in having made the trip (to Dubai). From stall-to-stall (USA to Saudi Arabia) it was 22 hours. It takes that long to put a horse on a truck to go to New York from Florida.”
What would it mean for that ‘kid from South Dakota’ to pull off the inaugural Dubai World Cup and inaugural Saudi World Cup?
“I’d like to be able to put that on my resume. If that were to happen, you’d have some bragging rights. It’s something you can talk about – it’s a good conversation starter. At the time (1996), the Dubai World Cup was the richest race in the world and now this one is.”