Mor Spirit the one to beat in Dirt Mile

Profile Picture: Alastair Bull

October 31st, 2017

There’s plenty of class on offer in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, but one prep race stands out when trying to work out who might win.

Facing a field including two of his Dirt Mile opponents, Mor Spirit romped away with the one-mile Metropolitan Handicap (G1) at Belmont Park June 10. He was 6-1/4 lengths in front of runner-up Sharp Azteca, with Tommy Macho third a further 3-1/4 lengths away in third, and Awesome Slew a length back in fourth.

Mor Spirit hasn’t raced since then, but Sharp Azteca has since won the Monmouth Cup Stakes (G3) and the Kelso Handicap (G2), while Awesome Slew won the Ack Ack Stakes (G3) and finished second in both the Forego Stakes (G1) and Belmont Sprint Championship Stakes (G2). Both return for the Dirt Mile.

The only obvious difference Mor Spirit faces at Del Mar is the fact the mile involves two turns rather than one, but he has handled the turns well earlier in his career.

Mor Spirit’s stablemate Cupid could be something of a wild card in the race. He tends to either win or run out of the money, as his 6-1-0 record in 12 starts indicates. But when he’s on his game, as he was in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1), he’s a very good horse. He’ll be hard to leave out of any bets.

More consistent is Accelerate, who this year has raced six times for a win, two second-place finishes, and three third-place efforts. He scored the biggest upset of the season when he beat Arrogate into fourth in the San Diego Handicap (G2), but after running third in the Pacific Classic (G1), he’s been aimed at the Dirt Mile. Look for him to run well again.

Three horses from the 3-year-old division line up. The best is probably Practical Joke, a good winner of the 7-furlong H. Allen Jerkens Stakes (G1) and very good up to a mile. Battle of Midway usually runs honestly, while Gato Del Oro has run well at times.

Giant Expectations, a relative newcomer to stakes company, and Iron Fist, who’s raced mostly in the center of the country this year, complete the field and are capable of getting some of the money.

If the Mor Spirit arrives in the same form as he was in the Metropolitan Handicap he’ll be very hard to beat, with Practical Joke and an on-his-game Cupid perhaps the most likely to upset.