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Mott Hoping Baby Yoda is Force to be Reckoned with in True North Stakes

Jamie Clark
Bill Mott out to win True North Stakes again

Bill Mott had to wait 25 years for his fourth winner in the True North Stakes, but Elite Power obliged in 2023. With that sprinting star retired to stud by owner-breeders Juddmonte, the barn has Baby Yoda heading for Saratoga where the Grade II dirt contest takes place this year.

Hall of Fame handler Mott has nine trainer’s titles at the Spa track in upstate New York. His first three victories in the True North during the 1990s came when the 1.3km race was a handicap and run at the slightly shorter distance of six furlongs.

In Baby Yoda, Mott has a six-year-old Prospective gelding yet to enjoy a breakthrough graded stakes win. That doesn’t even begin to tell the full tale with his horse, however, who has rubbed shoulders with some of the very best in training across America throughout his career.

Back on Boxing Day 2021, Baby Yoda chased home Flightline in the Grade I Malibu Stakes over seven furlongs at Santa Anita. The winner went on become the highest rated racehorse on the planet with subsequent routs in the Metropolitan Handicap on the same card as the Truth North Stakes, Pacific Classic back in California at Del Mar and the 2022 Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Baby Yoda Battles Accretive Again in True North Stakes

Over the following summer, Baby Yoda ran fourth in this very race. The Champion Sprinter of 2021, Jackie’s Warrior, had too much pace for the field at Belmont Park. Baby Yoda clashed with that one again when filling the same spot in a red-hot edition of the Grade I Forego Stakes here behind subsequent dual Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile hero Cody’s Wish.

After besting re-opposing rival Accretive for the Saratoga local Chad Brown barn in an Aqueduct claimer by a neck five weeks ago, both horses meet again off the same terms. Much like Baby Yoda, this five-year-old son of Practical Joke has yet to taste victory in graded races.

Accretive went close in the Grade II Vosburgh Stakes when placed behind Cody’s Wish as he warmed up for the defense of his Breeders’ Cup crown. The True North is one of the few big races that the Brown barn hasn’t won at the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival.

Where Accretive lacks compared to his old rival is winning past performances at Saratoga. Baby Yoda has a course and distance allowance race victory here, plus success in claimer over seven furlongs. As the post position draw below shows, the entire field meets off level weights with one exception…

True North Stakes 2024 Post Position Draw & Morning Line Odds

  1. Ninetyprcentmaddie (118lbs) – 8-1
  2. Rotknee (118lbs) – 6-1
  3. Twenty Four Mamba (118lbs) – 15-1
  4. Accretive (118lbs) – 5-1
  5. Gun Pilot (124lbs) – Evs
  6. Gun It (118lbs) – 6-1
  7. Baby Yoda (118lbs) – 6-1

Gun Pilot Topweight for Asmussen Barn

Conceding 3kg all-round to a field of six rivals is four-year-old Gun Runner colt Gun Pilot. He represents Steve Asmussen, the trainer of 2022 True North winner Jackie’s Warrior. Gun Pilot carries a penalty for his Grade I Churchill Downs Stakes success but now drops back in distance.

Morning Line odds and those available through the best Belmont Stakes betting sites suggest he’s a red-hot favorite. That victory during the Kentucky Derby meet was a real breakthrough for Gun Pilot. Previously second in the Eclipse Stakes at Oaklawn Park to Edge To Edge, he took his form to a whole new level.

Last summer’s Vanderbilt Handicap fourth Gun It is the veteran in the True North Stakes. Linda Rice’s eight-year-old Tapit gelding landed an Aqueduct claimer by a couple of lengths towards the end of May. Gun It should step forward for that winning reappearance.

Also prominent in the betting is Michael J Maker’s Rotknee following Black Type success over in France. Manny Franco again takes the ride on the five-year-old son of Runhappy, who has had five weeks off since. The True North looks as though as it has a part of play in unearthing a new dirt sprinting star.

Jamie Clark

After more than a decade of picking winners for the biggest races on the planet, pro handicapper Jamie Clark has been involved with our Belmont Stakes project right from the start. A thoroughbred pedigree expert, he has the knowledge of all the horses taking part in this and other major events across the USA and beyond.