Just four days after arriving at Churchill Downs, and just five days after his last timed workout, Los Alamitos Futurity (gr. I) winner Mor Spirit turned in a blazing five-furlong workout at Churchill Downs.
With regular rider Gary Stevens in the saddle, Mor Spirit breezed five furlongs in company with four-year-old maiden Jimbo Fallon and started off at a blazing pace, posting fractions of :11.40, :22.40, :34.20, and :46 flat. He slowed down a bit in the final furlong, traversing the distance in :13.80 to complete five furlongs in :59.80, but he continued on strongly past the finish line, going six furlongs in 1:13.20 and seven furlongs in 1:27 flat.
Trainer Bob Baffert was pleased with Mor Spirit’s workout. “He worked well today,” Baffert was quoted as saying in a Churchill Downs press release. “He’s never been a real willing worker. He got a good work today, seems like he [Gary Stevens] didn’t go too hard on him. This track is pretty quick, but it was good for him, he got into it. When Gary worked him a few weeks ago he started off slow and kind of lost interest. The surface is really kind on him, he likes the surface.”
Gary Stevens also thought the workout was excellent. “Loved the work,” said Stevens, who has won the Kentucky Derby three times, most recently with the Baffert-trained Silver Charm in 1997. “The work went great; he was very aggressive going to the pole, which is not always him. He’s a little quirky sometimes. [Trainer] Bob [Baffert] put a little more blinkers on him this morning to get him a little more focused and it did the job. He went to the pole aggressive, was aggressive throughout the work, he galloped out strong into the backstretch.”
Mor Spirit has been among the Kentucky Derby favorites since winning the Los Alamitos Futurity in December, but will enter the Derby off a runner-up effort as the favorite in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) on April 9th.
“We haven’t got to the bottom of him,” Stevens said. “In the Santa Anita Derby, I won’t say that he didn’t like the surface, but he didn’t like the kick back coming back. I felt like he ran about 80 percent for me and still finished second. He’s got some gears and I’ve felt them in the morning and I’ve felt them in the afternoon. Unfortunately I didn’t feel them in the Santa Anita Derby so hopefully he brings the ‘A’ game.”
For Bob Baffert, this lead-up to this year’s Kentucky Derby will be quieter than in 2015, when he trained the two favorites American Pharoah and Dortmund. “It’s quieter, but it should be,” Baffert said. “Last year we came with two top horses. One who was undefeated, Dortmund, and American Pharoah had come off that ridiculous race [Arkansas Derby] at Oaklawn Park so they had stamped themselves, especially Pharoah with the way he won. It’s a different vibe, but it’s still exciting, it’s still good to be here. Mr. [Michael] Lund [Petersen, owner of Mor Spirit] flew in from Maryland to watch his horse work, he’s getting into it and it’s fun for him. He’s learning the process of it all.”
“It’s fun with Gary [Stevens] because he’s focused,” Baffert added. “He knows what we need to and we’re getting to know this horse and we’ve been here before and we’re both getting older now so we appreciate it more and we’re enjoying it more, before we used to come in here and try to win one of these things. Once you’ve been here so many times, you know what you need to do, just stay focused and enjoy yourself as long as everything is going smooth, so that’s the whole key.”
Baffert also shared thoughts on sweeping the 2015 Triple Crown with American Pharoah. “What I bring from the Triple Crown is what I got to share it with my wife and my kids and just the noise and the emotion,” Baffert said. “I’ll never forget, it was just deafening, that’s what I take from it that I was actually involved in sports history. The people who were there will always remember that how loud it was. The noise was just incredible. I wasn’t really rooting for the horse I was just listening to the noise and we were all crying. The noise is what I’ll never forget and it kept on going and my wife Jill was there. This game can get you down and it can get you bitter sometimes but that just made up for everything.”
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