Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Trainer a great guy, and Honest to boot

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FAIR HILL, Md. -- When H. Graham Motion trained the winner of a stakes race at Monmouth Park a few years ago, track announcer Larry Collmus asked the trainer what the "H" stood for.

"Honest," Motion told him.

If there is one word that describes the trainer of the 2011 Kentucky Derby winner, Animal Kingdom, it is honest. He has started nearly 8,000 horses in his 18-year career and has never had a medication violation. In a sport in which just about everybody is looking for an edge, sometimes an illegal edge, Motion cuts no corners and breaks no rules.

"He does it the old-fashioned way, with horsemanship rather than medication," said Butch Reid, one of the leading trainers at Parx Racing.

Reid and Motion were stabled next to each other at Gulfstream Park for five years. When Reid came to Maryland, he lived in the basement of Motion's home for a year before his wife and daughter followed him north.

"(Motion is) real quiet, sometimes it's hard to tell what he's thinking, really dedicated to his horses, puts a lot of thought and effort into it," Reid said.

During his daily routine, Motion arrived typically early at his Fair Hill Training Center barns, where he trains 100 horses, left for a few minutes to drive the mile home to see his two children off to school, then returned in plenty of time to oversee the training of his Derby winner.

Animal Kingdom emerged from the barn at 8:55 a.m. and, after wandering through the trails and fields, walked under the tunnel to the Tapeta track 10 minutes later.

The trainer did not want the big horse on the hard, muddy, dirt track, so AK went to the artificial surface for his 1 3/4-mile gallop, led by no less than nine of his stablemates.

"I'm just trying to stay out of his way and just let him do his thing, to be honest," Motion said when the morning work was done. "I really just don't want to interfere with him. I don't want to change anything."

Motion was born in Cambridge, England, in May 1964. His father, Michael, was an international bloodstock agent; his mother, Jo, an amateur rider.

The Motions moved to America in 1980. Five years later, legendary Chester Country trainer Jonathan Sheppard got a call from Graham's father. Sheppard, also an Englishman, knew Michael Motion "slightly."

"I've got this boy," the father told Sheppard. "I think he wants to be a trainer, but I don't know if he really does or not. He has not been very much hands-on with horses as a kid. He was just at prep school."

Sheppard remembered that they decided to let Motion go to the "school of hard knocks with Sheppard and find out whether he really likes it or not."

"You find out pretty soon if they are really dedicated," Sheppard said.

Motion was dedicated. Six years with Sheppard got him ready. The young, aspiring trainer made several trips abroad with Sheppard's steeplechase champion, Flatterer. Motion went to work for trainer Jonathan Pease in Chantilly, France. There, he met Anita, who would become his wife.

-- McClatchy news service

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 20, 2011 C5

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