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South Dakotan Trainer Now a Kentucky Derby Winner
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Matt Slocum/AP via NPR

It may not have been the way trainer William Mott would have wanted to go down in the history books as a Kentucky Derby-winning trainer but it still happened. The South Dakota-native will forever be enshrined in history as the trainer of 65-1 shot Country House who was awarded the victory in America's most important race after race favorite Maximum Security was disqualified due to interference at the top of the stretch. Mott was also the trainer of ultimate 3rd place finisher, Tacitus, giving him 2 of the 3 top spots in the 145th Derby.

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William Mott, who mostly goes by Bill, was born in Mobridge, South Dakota on July 29, 1953. The son of a veterinarian, he was enamored with horses from a young age and by 15 was grooming, exercise riding and training his own racehorses on the "leaky roof" circuit that included the tracks in South Dakota, which numbered four at that time. His first career winner came at Ft. Pierre with a filly named My Assets that his father had purchased for a mere $320. At age 16, he used his earnings from My Assets to purchase another horse, Kozmic Tour, which became his first stakes winner when he won the South Dakota Futurity at Park Jefferson in the southeast corner of the state. Mott's career would only skyrocket after that.

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Mott broke into big-time racing when he became an assistant to legendary Midwest trainer Jack Van Berg. It was through his years with Van Berg that Bill Mott was able to open his own public stable in 1978. Big owners came his way and in 1987, he was sent a horse named Theatrical that would put him amongst America's top training names. Under Mott's expert guidance, Theatrical won six Grade I (the top flight of races in the US) races including the Breeder's Cup Turf which had him crowned as that year's Champion Grass Horse.

Theatrical put Mott in a position to fill his barn with some of the best horses in America but it was not until 1994 that he became a household name. That was the year that one of America's most legendary racehorses entered his barn: Cigar. From 1994 to 1996, Cigar reeled off 16 consecutive victories include the inaugural Dubai World Cup (worth a staggering $7 million) and became the sport's all-time leading money-earning horse, a number which was not eclipsed for a full decade. Cigar was voted Horse of the Year in both 1995 and 1996 and after fertility issues nixed his stud career, he ultimately retired as a much-beloved race horse in residence at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, KY.

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It was through Cigar's sweeping campaign that Mott honored with the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Trainer in 1995 and 1996 and named to the National Museum Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 1998, the youngest (age 45) a trainer had ever been elected. He was also named Outstanding Trainer in 2011. His other champions of the turf include Ajina, the top 3-year-old filly of 1987; Escena, the top older female of 1998; Paradise Creek, the top turf male of 1994; Royal Delta, the top 3-year-old filly of 2011 and top older female in 2012 and 2013; and Close Hatches, the top older female of 2014. Besides the 2019 Kentucky Derby, his other win in an American Triple Crown race was the Belmont Stakes with Drosselmeyer in 2010. Through May 4, 2019 Mott has trained horses in 24,973 races with 4,910 total wins and total lifetime earnings of $276,601,753.