Mor Spirit gets the victory in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes.

Mor Spirit gets the victory in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes.

Benoit Photo

Mor Spirit Secures Robert B. Lewis Score

Confidently handled colt progresses on Road to Kentucky Derby.

Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens delivered an icy ride and grade I winner Mor Spirit responded full of run in the $150,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. III) Feb. 6 at Santa Anita Park.

Michael Lund Petersen's Los Alamitos Futurity (gr. I) winner progressed on the Road to the Kentucky Derby with a 1 1/2-length closing score in the 1 1/16-mile Lewis. The race is worth 10-4-2-1 points to the top four finishers toward a place in the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), and sent Bob Baffert trainee Mor Spirit to rank second on the list with 24 points, behind 2015 champion juvenile colt Nyquist  (30).

"My main concern is the break and he was moving around a little bit," said Baffert, who collected his record sixth Lewis score. "He got away there decent... I have a lot of confidence in Gary and he knows the horse really well. He got him in his groove and turning for home... it was exciting to watch him, with his long stride, just slowly wear them down."

While I Will Score put his undefeated record on the line with a front-running effort and 7-1 Uncle Lino  tracked second, Mor Spirit galloped along in third in his season debut. Both horses on the pace did their best to turn back Mor Spirit's run after a :23.49 quarter and a :47.78 half, but once Stevens gave the signal to go after turning for home, his bay mount ground down the front two. After three-quarters in 1:12.34, the long-striding son of Eskendereya steadily closed through a 1:37.10 mile, passed his rivals with a sixteenth to go, and finished in 1:43.21 on a fast track.

"I had a big smile on my face going down the backside..." Stevens said. "I was loaded coming into the stretch and when they started sprinting, it took him about three strides to get by. He's pretty special and I'm looking forward to facing the competition with him."

Uncle Lino held for second by half a length over I Will Score. Both were trying two turns for the first time and Uncle Lino's effort greatly pleased trainer Gary Sherlock.

"I'm very happy; he ran good," Sherlock said. "The pace scenario dictated that we had to do what we did today. We ran by I Will Score and beat him. I thought we were going to be able to pass (I Will Score) no problem, but Gary just got a perfect trip and ran by us. We'll move forward off of this. He won't be leaving here. I don't have to go anywhere; there's a million dollar race four hundred yards from his stall (the grade I Santa Anita Derby April 9)."

Mor Spirit returned $3.40, $2.40, and $2.10 as the 3-5 favorite in a field of six. Uncle Lino was worth $5.20 and $2.80, and I Will Score paid $2.60. Completing the order of finish were Dressed in Hermes, Let's Meet in Rio, and Path of David.

A $650,000 purchase by Pedersen and Bernie Schiappa from the Wavertree Stables consignment at the Fasig-Tipton Florida select 2-year-olds in training sale, Mor Spirit also sold for $85,000 to Red Wings from the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky fall 2014 yearling sale when consigned by Allied Bloodstock. He now holds a record of three wins and two seconds from five starts for earnings of $378,400.

When asked what might be next for Mor Spirit, Baffert replied, "I don't know. We know he'll go on a plane to go somewhere, but right now, I'll just go by how he's doing. It's just too far ahead."