Hidden Scroll gets in line as a Kentucky Derby contender
SHEPHERDSTOWN – Could there be another Kentucky Derby comet that didn’t even race as a two-year-old?
Justify, last year’s unbeaten winner of the Kentucky Derby, had not had a race at age two. Yet he blistered the other 19 horses in the Kentucky Derby and then carried on through his next two Triple Crown races, to give racing a Triple Crown champion.
Hidden Scroll is not a royally-bred thoroughbred. His sire is Hard Spun and his dam is the unexciting Sheba Queen, a winner of only one race in her on-track career.
But Hidden Scroll is trained in the quiet ways of 65-year-old Bill Mott, a man of no pretense who doesn’t shove his thoroughbreds through a grind in order to get them into any of the Triple Crown races. Mott has been training for 41 years. His place in any pantheon of trainers is already secure.
He couldn’t race Hidden Scroll, an athletic and photogenic animal with a measured stride that reminds some old timers of other less-heralded Triple Crown winners, because as a two-year he kicked an electrical box and injured a hind splint bone.
When Hidden Scroll finally got to the races at Gulfstream Park in Florida just weeks ago, he was placed by Mott in a Maiden Special race at one-mile on a sloppy track.
Leading from the first jumps out of the starting gate, he posted the fastest time of the day at a mile and won by a jaw-dropping 14 lengths.
Speculation began to form in high mounds of anticipation about what Mott had in mind for the brown colt. Would he chance the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream on March 2? That race is at a mile-and-a-sixteenth.
Mott calmly answered questions about the 14-length win and a possible go in the Fountain of Youth.
“We know he can run in the slop, and that’s important,” Mott said. “Both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes were run on wet tracks last year.”
Mott is well-known for not pushing his younger horses. Having a viable contender that never ran at all as a two-year-old means being careful, as if your thoroughbred was a Faberge egg. Mott is careful.
After the March 2 Fountain of Youth comes the March 30 Florida Derby at Gulfstream and the Kentucky Derby on May 4.
Hidden Scroll has the look of a possible standout. But he’s already injured himself once. Any bobble from now on would certainly cost him a chance to be a player in the Derby.
But Justify did his sensational tricks last year with just three total races going into the Kentucky Derby. It can be done. Just not very often in the sometimes nontraditional world of thoroughbred racing.