Mor Spirit tops 7-horse Lewis; Hoppertunity expected choice in San Antonio
From the first crop of Eskendreya, Mor Spirit is one of two contestants from the Bob Baffert stable, which will be seeking to extend its record with a sixth victory in the 1 1/16-mile Lewis. The dark bay ridgling broke his maiden when trying two turns the second-time out at Santa Anita in late October and jumped straight to stakes competition with a fine second in the November 28 Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) over a sloppy track at Churchill Downs.
Favored at 3-5 in the December 19 Los Alamitos Futurity, Mor Spirit rallied from the off the pace to a 1 ¼-length decision, registering a career-best 96 BRIS Speed rating. Gary Stevens retains the mount on the expected heavy favorite.
Baffert, who moved into a three-way tie for second when recording his fourth Kentucky Derby win with American Pharoah last year, will also be represented by Let’s Meet in Rio, a fast-closing second in the January 9 Sham (G3) at Santa Anita. The Flatter colt will keep Kent Desormeaux in the irons.
Last seen capturing the November 29 Cecil DeMille (G3) on turf, Dressed in Hermes will seek his first win on the main track in the Lewis. The Janet Armstrong-trained gelding was scratched from the Sham and picks up a new rider in Rafael Bejarano. I Will Score is one to keep an eye upon in his stakes bow. A front-running winner in his first two starts, the Jerry Hollendorfer trainee will try two turns for the first time with a returning Mike Smith.
Rounding out the Lewis field is the maiden Laoban, who finished third in the Sham; Path of David, who will go turf to dirt for Kristin Mulhall off a win in the December 31 Eddie Logan; and Uncle Lino, a close third to I Will Score in a January 3 allowance/optional claimer at Santa Anita.
The $500,000 San Antonio (G2) lost some luster when Baffert declared Dortmund from consideration recently, but the Hall of Fame conditioner will still be well-represented in the 1 1/8-mile race for older horses with Hoppertunity. A Grade 1-winning earner of more than $1.5 million, the 5-year-old horse just missed in second when making a title defense in the Clark H. (G1) two back and exits a third to California Chrome in the January 9 San Pasqual (G2). Flavien Prat picks up the assignment.
His main rivals in the 8-horse field include last year’s San Antonio winner Blingo, who will be seeking his first win since posting a 15-1 upset last year; graded stakes victors Imperative and Hard Aces, the second- and fourth-place finishers in the San Pasqual; and Grade 2 scorer El Kabeir, who will stretch back to two turns following a fourth in the 7-furlong Malibu (G1).
The $200,000 San Marcos (G2) is the final stakes on the program but won’t feature a distinguished field at 1 ¼ miles on turf. Hollywood Derby (G1) winner Chiropractor will attempt to rebound from a well-beaten seventh in the January 2 San Gabriel (G2). Drayden Van Dyke, who missed the last two starts aboard the Kitten’s Joy gelding, will retake the mount for Tom Proctor.
Flamboyant, a 46-1 upsetter in the San Gabriel, will also return for the 11-horse San Marcos and Hollywood Turf Cup (G2) third-placer Power Foot is one of two entrants for Neil Drysdale along with the stakes-winning mare Gaga A.
Mor Spirit photo courtesy of Benoit Photos