Breeders' Cup - At The Races

MOR SPIRIT

Mor Spirit
  • Trainer: Bob Baffert
  • Likely Jockey: Mike Smith
  • Owner: Michael L Peterson
  • Age & Breeding: 4-year-old rig; City Zip – Helena Bay
  • Season Form Figures: 2111
  • Career Highlight: Producing the best performance at a mile in the US this year when storming home in the Metropolitan Mile.

The introduction of the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile has provided an ideal end-of-season target for dirt horses who previously fell between two stools. For those lacking the pace to cope with the rapid early gallop in the Sprint, and finding the Classic trip stretching their fragile stamina beyond its limits, the Mile perfectly suits horses like Mor Spirit.

At one stage amongst the favourites for the Kentucky Derby following a Grade 1 success as a juvenile, Mor Spirit drew post 17 and endured a horrendous trip at Churchill Downs. He wasn't seen again for over seven months, perhaps indicative of a wider issue, before returning in the Grade 1 Malibu on Boxing Day.

Cut back dramatically in trip, perhaps Bob Baffert's charge had overindulged the previous day, as he looked rusty over the seven-furlong distance, labouring into fourth late on. This run was patently needed, but has proved an ideal stepping-stone to better things, as Mor Spirit has since done nothing but improve.

Another defeat followed in the San Antonio Handicap, but it was another improvement, going down in the final 100-yards to the highly-talented Hoppertunity. That doesn't tell the full story, however, as Mor Spirit and Accelerate looked to get racing a bit early, setting up for Hoppertunity to close from well off the speed.

Mor Spirit has blossomed since that run, a better setup allowing him to romp in the Steve Sexton Mile before producing an even more devastating display in the Metropolitan Handicap, crushing Sharp Azteca – himself a very smart performer and winner of his next two starts by an aggregate 11 lengths – by six.

The 117 Beyer backed up the visual impression, and is by some distance the best speed figure clocked at a mile or less this year – indeed, it is the fourth best Beyer recorded by any horse this year, just two points below the number run by Arrogate in the Pegasus Stakes.

With the best figures and form, and having already beaten Dirt Mile market-rivals Accelerate and Sharp Azteca, Mor Spirit has plenty in his favour, although he has not seen the track since June having been injured after the Met.

Bringing him back at concert pitch will require all of hall-of-famer Baffert's skill, and if Mor Spirit isn't quite at his best, perhaps Practical Joke will be able to take advantage, with Chad Brown's 3-year-old also having cut back to the mile distance having contested the Kentucky Derby (where he was fifth) and the Haskell (where he was second). His speed figures and form leave him with a bit to find, but he beat the talented and fast Takaful and, peaking at the right time, he should make a bold bid. But any discussion of the Dirt Mile must begin with Mor Spririt.