©2016 Calvin L. Carter. All rights reserved.
The “Road to the Kentucky Derby” takes us to Santa Anita Park, Saturday, where Hall of Fame Trainer, Bob Baffert, will send Mor Spirit to the starting gate as the 8-5 morning line favorite in the 79th running of the $150,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3).
Baffert has had good fortune in the Lewis, previously winning it a record five times with Dortmund (2015), Flashback (2013), Pioneerof the Nile (2009), Domestic Dispute (2003) and General Challenge (1999).
Whether Mor Spirit can bring Baffert more good fortune remains to be seen. He comes into this race with a 2-2-0 record in four starts, including a second-place finish to Airoforce in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) and a win in the Los Alamitos Futurity Stakes (G1). Here’s the video and chart call of his last race:
MOR SPIRIT pulled early and stalked between horses on the first turn then three deep or off the rail, went three wide on the second turn and four wide into the stretch, drifted in and rallied to a short lead a sixteenth out under a couple left handed cracks of the whip and proved best.
His finish time of 1:43.54 was okay and the times of his other races have been slower that what I like to see a young colt run on the Derby trail. Baffert also seemed cautiously optimist about Mor Spirit in a recent edition of Santa Anita Barn Notes:
“I think with every start, we’re learning more about Mor Spirit and figuring out what he wants to do. He has a lot of tactical speed but you can’t let him use it too early. We’re teaching him to sit and wait. He’ll be best going a mile and an eighth and further.”
Mor Spirit has a C Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile®, which makes him competitive on the trail. But, he’s yet to show the same “spirit” on the racetrack as that of his sire, Eskendereya, who has an A profile rating.
Eskendereya was my 2010 Kentucky Derby favorite until an injury took him off the trail. During his career, Eskendereya compiled a 4-1-0 record in six starts which culminated in a 9¾ length romp in the 2010 Wood Memorial Stakes (G1).
Other key stakes wins include a runaway win by 8½ lengths in the Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) and an impressive 7¼ length victory Pilgrim Stakes.
The return of Hall of Fame Jockey Gary Stevens to the mount is a positive. However, there are several horses in this race that have good speed and Mor Spirit will need to pick up the pace in order to secure the win.
A long shot I like in this race is Path of David (8-1). I wrote about him in my 2016 Kentucky Derby Outlook and, to date, he’s compiled a 2-1-1 record in six starts, including a win in the Eddie Logan Stakes. Here’s the video and chart call of the race:
PATH OF DAVID angled in and chased inside then just off the rail leaving the backstretch, went three deep on the second turn and four wide into the stretch, bid outside the leader, gained the advantage past the eighth pole and proved best under a couple taps with the whip turned down, some hand urging and steady handling.
Path of David raced about six lengths off the leaders until entering the far turn when he made a wide sweeping move to rally and take the lead and secure the win. I love the way Santa Anita track announcer Frank Mirahmadi called his run in the stretch as “gobbling up the dirt…very confidently handled and wrapped up to win by a deceptive length and a half.”
Path of David is a sire-line descendant of the Mr. Prospector Ancestral Herd and he has an A+ Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® grade rating.
Istan, the sire of Path of David, raced mostly in sprints as a two and three year colt old in France, winning the Prix des Closeaux-EBF, Prix de la Tour Saint-Jacques and Prix Mordant.
In September of his three year old season, Istan was shipped to America where he finished fourth in the City Zip Stakes. He continued to race as a four and five year old, winning the Budweiser Challenger Stakes, Artax Handicap, Governor’s Handicap, Turfway Park Fall Championship Stakes (G3) and the Ack Ack Handicap (G3).
With two back-to-back turf wins, Path of David seems to be on the winning trail since transferring to the barn of Mulhall and losing the blinkers. He has room to improve as a three year old and if he makes another move forward, he has the potential to upset at a nice price.
Dressed in Hermes (6-1) comes into this race for trainer Janet Armstrong with a 2-0-1 record in five starts, including stakes wins in the Zuma Beach Stakes and Cecil B. DeMille Stakes (G3). Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
DRESSED IN HERMES stalked the pace outside, went three deep on the second turn and into the stretch, rallied under some left handed urging to gain the lead in deep stretch and proved best.
Dressed in Hermes was in sixth place at the half and began to move up to take command in the stretch and win by and easy 1¼ lengths.
Dressed in Hermes is a sire-line descendant of the Royal Charger Ancestral Herd and he has a C Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile®.
Hat Trick, a son of Sunday Silence and the sire of Dressed in Hermes, was a champion sprinter, miler that raced in Japan. He did not race until May of his three year old season. However, the wait to get him to the track was worth it as he won four of his five starts that year.
As a four year old, Hat Trick stepped up to stakes competition, winning four of eight starts including the Sports Nippon Sho Kyoto Kimpai Handicap, Tokyo Shimbun Hai, Mile Championship (G1) and the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Mile (G1).
Jockey Rafael Bejarano picks up the mount on Dressed in Hermes and I look for the pair to run a good race.
I Will Score (5-2) is getting some buzz as an up and coming, talented colt who’s undefeated in two starts for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. He’s yet to run in a route race and he’s a blistering, fast colt that’s run on the lead in his last two starts. Here’s the video and chart call of his last race:
I WILL SCORE had good early speed and dueled inside, fought back when headed in the stretch, drifted out a bit under left handed urging while regaining the advantage in deep stretch, brushed with the runner-up late and gamely prevailed.
I Will Score is a sire-line descendant of the Mr. Prospector Ancestral Herd and he has a low Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile®. However, despite his profile, his Behavior Index makes him competitive in this race.
Roman Ruler, the sire of I Will Score, was a multiple graded stakes winning colt on the trail to the 2005 Kentucky Derby (G1). As a two year old, he compiled a 3-1-0 record in five starts, winning the Best Pal Stakes (G2) and Norfolk Stakes (G2). He finished second in the Del Mar Futurity and fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1).
As a three year old, Roman Ruler developed a quarter crack and his trainer Bob Baffert speculated that the foot problem probably accounted for Roman Ruler’s last place finish in his season debut in San Felipe Stakes (G2).
Roman returned to racing after a four month break and won both the Dwyer Stakes (G2) and Haskell Invitational Handicap (G1). He finished third in the Travers Stakes (G1) and closed his racing season with a second-place finish in the Goodwood Breeders’ Cup Handicap (G2).
Jockey Mike Smith retains the mount on I Will Score and he’s been training well at Santa Anita, firing two back-to-back bullet work outs.
It remains to be seen if Smith can help I Will Score carry his speed over a route of ground without being used up early in the race. If Smith can do that, then I Will Score has the potential to “score” in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3).
Honorable Mention goes to Let’s Meet in Rio (6-1) who’s also trained by Baffert and comes into this race with a 1-1-0 record in four starts, including a second-place finish his stablemate, Collected, in the Sham Stakes (G3). Here’s a look at the video of that race.
The time of 1:38.00 was slower that what I like to see colts run on the Derby trail and, with an A+ Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile®, Let’s Meet in Rio has yet to fully live up to his breeding.
Let’s Meet in Rio was my long shot pick in the Sham and he has the potential to improve in his second start of the season. Jockey Kent Desormeaux retains the mount and if he makes another move forward, Let’s Meet in Rio could, perhaps, be a factor in this race.
Under the points system implemented by Churchill Downs to determine which horses will qualify to enter the Kentucky Derby starting gate, the winner of the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3) will receive 10 points, the second-place finisher will receive 4 points, the third-place finisher will receive 2 points and the fourth-place finisher will receive one point. Here’s a look at the current top twenty Derby qualifiers:
2016 KENTUCKY DERBY LEADERBOARD
Rank, Horse, Points, Trainer, Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
1. Nyquist, 30, Doug O’Neill, $1,580,000
2. Mohaymen, 20, Kiaran McLaughlin, $514,830
3. Sunny Ridge, 18, Jason Servis, $505,600
4. Exaggerator, 16, Keith Desormeaux, $940,000
5. Flexibility, 15, Chad Brown, $232,500
6. Brody’s Cause, 14, Dale Romans, $500,000
7. Greenpointcrusader, 10, Dominick Schettino, $369,300
8. Mor Spirit, 14, Bob Baffert, $246,800
9. Swipe, 12, Keith Desormeaux, $597,130
10. Mo Tom, 21, Tom Amoss $188,326
11. Airoforce, 10, Mark Casse, $444,080
12. Cocked and Loaded, 10, Larry Rivelli, $280,840
13. Discreetness, 10, William “Jinks” Fires, $245,042
14. Riker, 10, Nicholas Gonzalez, $182,375
15. Collected, 10, Bob Baffert, $80,000
16. Vorticity, 8, James Lawrence II, $150,000
17. Rated R Superstar, 6, Ken McPeek, $80,200
18. Toews On Ice, 4, Bob Baffert, $228,900
19. Tom’s Ready, 4, Dallas Stewart, $66,670
20. *Gordy Florida, 4, Kenny Smith, $30,000
*Not nominated to the Triple Crown