Lea Sets New Donn Handicap Record
Owned by Adele Dilschneider, ridden by Joel Rosario and trained by William Mott, five-year-old Lea set a new record of 1:35.30 for the Donn Handicap (Grade 1) at Gulfstream Park on Sunday, …
Beating Will Take Charge to the finish line by 1 ½ lengths. Viramundo took third place in the prestigious race, 9 ¼ lengths back from the winner. The last Mott-trained horse to win the Donn Handicap was Cigar in 1996. Cigar went on to win sixteen consecutive races and was named Horse of the Year twice. The champion has a statue in his honor at Gulfstream Park overlooking the paddock walking ring. While Lea has only had two wins in a row, Mott was quoted as saying that "if you're going to win 16, you've got to start with two."
Lea changed trainers to William Mott in November last year, winning his first start for his new trainer in January – the Grade 3 Hal's Hope. Having raced mainly on grass tracks in his early career, he took to the dirt track like a pro, but as Mott pointed out in an interview, it is a challenge when moving from grass to dirt, but he felt Lea was capable of making the change successfully.
The main competitor in the race, Will Take Charge, won the Travers at Saratoga in August last year, and was runner-up to Mucho Macho Man in the Breeders' Cup Classic, so Lea was up against a quality champion. As the race gathered momentum, Will Take Charge backed off rounding the final turn and circled horses on the home stretch, just not able to catch up to the winner. Trainer of Will Take Charge, Wayne Lukas, was quoted post-race as saying that Lea had to set a track record in order to beat Will Take Charge, adding "Kudos to the Winner". Certainly, Lea is a horse worth following in the months ahead.