A Tale of two Apple Blossom Winners

Heatherten, trained by William (Bill) Mott and ridden by Randy Romero.

Photo Credit: Barbara Livingston

In the 1980’s the horse racing game was filled with white bridles and D. Wayne Lukas winning just about every weekend stakes race from coast to coast. The slogan which handicappers used was “D. Wayne off the plane,” referring to his ability to ship horses to different tracks and pick up stakes wins.

Several of Lukas’ fillies included Landaluce, Terlingua, Lady’s Secret, Life’s Magic, Family Style, Lucky Lucky Lucky, Miss Huntington and the list goes on.  When I think back of my first years working at the track, two fillies come to my mind. Heatherten and Sefa’s Beauty. Both mares at one time were trained by Hall of Fame Trainer Bill Mott.

One prestigious thing that both athletes had in common was that they both were winners of the GI Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park.  The Apple Blossom has been known to attract the finest fillies and mares to the Hot Springs track. The race has usually produced several champions, including two Horse of the Year honorees with Zenyatta and Havre de Grace.  

What also is interesting is neither of these mares were inducted in the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame.  Unfortunately, their careers were before internet so there are no charts to see how they ran. Were they speed favoring? Off the pace?  No pictures or videos. The only photo I found was one I purchased on eBay of Sefa’s Beauty winning at The Fair Grounds. Also, I reached out to Barbara Livingston who had a photo of Heatherten and Jockey Randy Romero.

What I do have is some statistics that are mind bottling.  Both fillies made over 50 starts with a better than 45%-win average.

Sefa’s Beauty winning at the Fair Grounds Racecourse

Sefa’s Beauty was a bargain at $30,000 and was purchased at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky yearling sale. She was by Lt. Stevens out of Delightful Vie.  Sefa’s Beauty’s record is 52 starts, 25 wins, 7 seconds and 8 thirds with earnings of $1,171,628.  

Mott took over training when, she was 4-years-old and she won 11 races before going out a winner in the Sixty Sails Handicap at Sportsman’s Park in Cicero, IL.   

 Sefa’s Beauty raced under the colors of Farid Sefa. Jockeys Pat Day or Randy Romero were the mares pilots, mare while under Mott’s care.

Sefa’s Beauty only had two foals, both by Fappiano. One of them, Sefapiano stood at stud in Michigan for a while, but was later moved to Louisiana.  Sefapiano’s best offspring was Jonesboro, who was a multiple graded stakes winner and stands at stud in Arkansas. 

Unfortunately, she died prematurely on Oct 25, 1989 at Taylor Made Farm, Ky.  Sefa’s Beauty is buried at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, KY.  She was owned by Farid Sefa till her death.

And then there was Heatherten. A big beautiful gray mare by Forceten out of Heather Road by The Axe II. In 1984, while I was working at Churchill Downs, I remember walking through the barn area after feed time and would pass Mott’s barn.  You could not miss the tall mare in the corner stall weaving back and forth like she was listening to a Disco song from the 70’s.

Heatherten was purchased in 1980 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale for $29,000.

In 53 Starts Heatherten had won 21 races, with 7 Seconds and 4 thirds with earnings of $1,022,699.

She raced from age 3 to 6 and had 4 different trainers.   Robert Holthus, John Palmer, Jack Van Berg and finally Bill Mott. From what I can see thanks to the Daily Racing Form & Equibase, John Franks had her until she was sold to a buyer for $600,000 in foal to Theatrical. 

On June 2, 1984, Heatherten won the Locust Grove Stakes at Churchill Downs. Only 8 days later on June 10, 1984, she was traveling to New York for the GI Hempstead Handicap at Belmont Park and she won.  And 20 days later she headed back to Louisville, KY and won the Fleur de Lis Handicap again at Churchill Downs.  Talk about tough! In total Heatherten won 6 Grade I stakes races.  And, still today some 38 years later, Heatherten’s name can be seen in the Oaklawn Program as she remains the track record holder for 1 1/16 miles in 1:40.20, which was set in the Apple Blossom Handicap in 1984.

She had several stakes winners in Japan. Her best runner was Three Diamond (JPN) with earnings of approx. $379,048.96 US dollars. 

Heatherten was sent to Japan in 1991, while in foal to Theatrical.  On June 20, 1999, the big mare passed away.

Overall, both fillies ran three times in the prestigious GI Apple Blossom Handicap. 

Sefa’s Beauty ran 2nd in 1983; She won the Apple Blossom in 1985 and finished 3rd in 1986.

Heatherten’s quest for the Apple Blossom started in 1983, but she finished 10th, in 1984 she finished 1st and in 1985 she finished 2nd

This week, Oaklawn honored the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame members and one special trainer that came in was William I. Mott.  I had the chance to sit and talk about both legends.  Mott used to gallop horses that he trained and he rode both Heatherten and Sefa’s Beauty in the mornings.  Sefa’s Beauty he said was easy to train, while Heatherten was an anxious mare that you had to be prepared for her next move.  Both girls were groomed by Randy one of Bill’s best grooms, who would always wear a suit when taking his stake fillies to the paddock on race day.

I had the past performances of both mares to show Bill.  He looked at them with amazement and asked “Did I do that?”  Yes Mr. Mott, you sure did!

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