Mor Spirit will be tested off layoff
Mor Spirit ran one of the best races of the year in the Metropolitan Handicap on June 10 at Belmont. If he repeats the performance next month in the Grade 1, $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, he will be tough to contain. The race is Nov. 3 at Del Mar.
Mor Spirit dogged Sharp Azteca in the Met Mile, put that rival away, and won by 6 1/4 lengths. He covered the oneturn mile in 1:33.71
“It was just one of those races – nobody was going to beat him that day,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “Just unbelievable.”
Mor Spirit earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 117, the year’s highest among dirt races up to a mile. The Breeders’ Cup will be the horse’s first start since, and his recent drills include a set of six-furlong moves, with his latest in 1:12.40 from the gate Saturday at Santa Anita.
Baffert said he backed off on Mor Spirit after the Met Mile.
“He ran so fast that day,” said Baffert, who trains Mor Spirit for Michael Petersen. “It’s hard on them. He’s been doing well. He seems like he’s just coming back around right now.
“I was hoping to get a race in him. I couldn’t find the right kind of race for him. He’s run big off a layoff.”
Baffert wins at a 29 percent rate with horses returning of layoffs of 61 to 180 days, according to Daily Racing Form statistics. Mor Spirit will be making his first start in 145 days.
The Dirt Mile will be a twoturn race, and Mor Spirit’s four other stakes wins have come at two turns, including the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity at 2 and the Grade 3 Steve Sexton Mile in May. Mike Smith has the mount, said Baffert.
Midnight Storm to cross-enter
Midnight Storm, a graded stakes winner on both the dirt and turf tracks at Del Mar, is scheduled to be cross-entered in the $2 million Mile and the Dirt Mile, according to trainer Phil D’Amato. Midnight Storm last raced Sept. 30, finishing second in the Awesome Again at Santa Anita.
“As it stands now, we’re going to cross-enter in both mile races and just kind of weigh our options,” D’Amato said. “The horse came back in really good shape and is going to breeze this weekend.”
D’Amato said Tyler Baze would have the call in either race. The Mile, on turf, is Nov. 4.
Midnight Storm won last year’s Grade 2 Eddie Read and Grade 2 Del Mar Mile Handicap, both on the grass at Del Mar, and also captured the Grade 3 Native Diver over the Del Mar main track last November.
Midnight Storm leads all potential Dirt Mile starters in earnings with $1.78 million.
“He’s just a total warrior to run on both surfaces as good as he does for a couple of years span now,” D’Amato said.
Midnight Storm races for A Venneri Racing and Little Red Feather Racing.
◗ Giant Expectations is scheduled to have a couple of works before the Dirt Mile and will ship to Del Mar for the race Oct. 28, trainer Peter Eurton said Tuesday. The Pat O’Brien winner, he is based at Santa Anita. Gary Stevens has the mount in the Breeders’ Cup.
◗ Baffert said that Cupid, winner of the Harry F. Brubaker at a mile two back at Del Mar, is possible for the Dirt Mile.