Kentucky Derby contender Mor Spirit works faster than Stevens realized

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TwinSpires Staff

May 2nd, 2016

Edited press release from Churchill Downs

Hall of Famers Bob Baffert and Gary Stevens, who teamed together to win the 1997 Kentucky Derby (G1) with Silver Charm, are hoping lightning will strike again when they join forces with Michael Petersen's Mor Spirit on Saturday. Both the trainer and jockey were feeling even more confident about their chances after the Eskendereya ridgling, with Stevens on board, completed his major preparation with a five-furlong breeze in :59.80 during the special 8:30-8:45 a.m. (EDT) training time.

The clockers caught Mor Spirit in splits of :12.40, 23.60, 35.40 and 46.80. He galloped out six furlongs in 1:13.20.

“It was a cruising half-mile,” Stevens said. “He gave me everything I wanted. Bob wanted an easy half-mile in 49 and I let him gallop out an easy five-eighths. He wanted to do more than I let him. He's getting over the surface well. He's always been a good mover. No wasted action. He does seem to be handling this surface better than Santa Anita's.

“I thought he went in 1:01. I had no idea of his time until I was told. To hear that puts a smile on my face. If I'm two seconds off on a good horse that usually means good things for me.”

“In his last work, he broke off a little too fast, but today he went really nice,” Baffert said. “It looks like he was moving really well. Now, we just need a good draw and a good break. So many things can happen. The break can make you or destroy you. The last work is important and then the last stressful thing is the draw, waiting to see what number you get.”

When asked about the favorite Nyquist maybe not getting as much respect as his Triple Crown winner American Pharoah last year, Baffert responded, “I think we all have American Pharoah hangover. Nyquist is a nice horse. I remember it being the same way with California Chrome and after he won people were like 'he is a really good horse.' Nyquist is fast and he keeps himself out of trouble. He definitely deserves to be the favorite because he's the most accomplished in the field.”

Photo courtesy Churchill Downs/Coady Photography.