The standout performance of this event came from Mor Spirit (6) when taking The Grade 1 Met. Mile at Belmont. He stalked pacesetting Sharp Azteca (3) before drawing off and beating him by six lengths. That was over one turn but he’s ran well over today’s configuration in the past. The winning time was super fast and the runner up has franked the form subsequently. He won back to back graded stakes by open lengths at Monmouth and Belmont. The issue with Mor Spirit is that big effort in June apparently took its toll and he’s been absent since. His trainer Bob Baffert has proved time and again at The Breeders’ Cup he can get a horse ready without a prep race. The problem for backers is his odds are likely to reflect that big performance that he may not be able to quite replicate
Bob Baffert also runs Grade 1 winner in May, Cupid (7) here. He won his comeback over course and distance in August but was a tad disappointing when fourth in a Grade 1 at Santa Anita last month. ACCELERATE (8), a three times local winner seems more of a threat. He ran third to Mor Spirit in February but has upped his game since John Sadler ran him in blinkers. He slammed a Grade 2 field by eight lengths in July. He was a far from disgraced third to Breeders’ Cup Classic contenders Collected and Arrogate when suffering his only defeat at Del Mar. The 10-furlong distance in The Grade 1 Pacific Classic may have stretched his stamina. He plots to get a productive stalk and pounce trip cutting back to a mile.
Sharp Azteca looks sure to be sent for the lead with Mor Spirit in close attendance. Old rivals Battle of Midway (9) and Gato Del Oro (4) may be part of the pace brigade too. The three-year-olds both ran with credit when filling the places in a Grade 3 at Remington last time. If one or both and maybe Accelerate (8) are aggressively ridden early, the pace may be too hot and the closers have their day. Practical Joke (10) another of the younger brigade outfinished Breeders’ Cup Sprint contender Takaful to win a Grade 1 at Saratoga in August. He was the beneficiary of fast fractions to chase down then. Although he is effective over two turns, his two standout efforts have come over one. He and Awesome Slew (8) are likely late threats. He has held his form well all year, winning a Grade 3 at Churchill last time out. He was thrashed by Mor Spirit in The Met Mile but speed held really well that day.
Iron Fist (1) draws well to get a ground-saving trip. He was no match for Mor Spirit when they met in May.
Selection: ACCELERATE (8)
Exotic Play: (no exotics)