Mor Spirit takes the Steve Sexton Mile with his ears up at the wire

Mor Spirit takes the Steve Sexton Mile with his ears up at the wire

Dustin Orona Photography

Mor Spirit Goes Gate-to-Wire in Sexton Mile

Grade 1 winning son of Eskendereya notched first graded win this season.

Exactly one year after running off the board in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1), Michael Lund Peterson's grade 1 winner Mor Spirit notched the first graded score of his 4-year-old season.  

The Bob Baffert-trained son of Eskendereya, who was the heavy favorite in the six-horse field, led at every call in the $200,000 Steve Sexton Mile (G3) at Lone Star Park May 7. 

Video: Steve Sexton Mile S. (G3)

Mor Spirit, with jockey Mike Smith up, hustled for the lead going into the first turn, as Texas Chrome, American Dubai, and Iron Fist vied each other for second. 

Mor Spirit settled comfortably at the front as American Dubai and Iron Fist raced closely in second and third, respectively. Setting fractions of :24.14, :47.04, and 1:11.35 through six furlongs, the favorite still maintained a lead around the second turn. In the stretch, Smith got after Mor Spirit to finish strong and the ridgling responded, putting away his competition by 5 3/4 lengths at the wire. The final time was 1:36.86

Texas Chrome made a closing effort to finish second, 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Iron Fist in third. 

Shotgun Cowboy, American Dubai, and F J Uncle Vic completed the order of finish. 

Graded stakes winners Carve and Great Minds, and stakes winner U S Officer were scratched by their respective trainers. 

Off at 2-5, Mor Spirit returned $2.80, $2.20, and $2.10 across the board. 

The ridgling entered Sunday's race off a 2 1/2-length win in the Essex Handicap at Oaklawn Park in March. He ran second in his season debut, the Feb. 4 San Antonio Stakes (G2), one length behind grade 1 winner Hoppertunity.  

As a juvenile, Mor Spirit won the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) before taking the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3) as a 3-year-old. Also as a sophomore, he ran second in San Felipe Stakes (G2) and Santa Anita Derby (G1) prior to the 2016 Kentucky Derby. 

Bred in Pennsylvania by the Elkstone Group, Mor Spirit is out of the stakes-winning Dixie Union mare Im a Dixie Girl. He was a $650,000 purchase by Bernard Schiappa and Peterson at the 2015 Fasig-Tipton select 2-year-olds in training sale. With his win Sunday, the dark bay runner now has earnings of more than $1 million and has five wins and five seconds from 12 starts.