USA TODAY Sports Weekly
BAFFERT BACK ON THE TRAIL
Mor Spirit is his latest contender
It seems like only yesterday that American Pharoah crossed the finish line before a roaring crowd at the Belmont Stakes to become racing’s first Triple Crown champion in 37 years.
But the road to the 2016 Kentucky Derby is bumper-tobumper with races, as 3-year-old Thoroughbreds vie for one of the coveted 20 spots in the Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs on May 7.
Bob Baffert, the trainer of American Pharoah, brings his top Triple Crown candidate, Mor Spirit, to Saturday’s Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita Race Course in Arcadia, Calif.
“This is when you start heading to the deeper part of the pool,” said Baffert, who will try for his sixth victory in the Lewis Stakes, which was named for his client, who died in 2006 at age 81.
“I think with every start, we’re learning more about Mor Spirit and figuring out what he wants to do. He has a lot of tactical speed, but you can’t let him use it too early.”
Gary Stevens has been aboard Mor Spirit in three of his four starts.
“He’s got a huge stride and beautiful action,” Stevens said of Mor Spirit, a son of Eskendereya and owned by Michael Lund Petersen.
Baffert has won the Lewis Stakes with General Challenge (1999), Domestic Dispute (2003), Pioneerof the Nile (2009), Flashback (2013) and Dortmund (2015).
Probable starters for the Lewis: Collected, ridden by Martin Garcia; Dressed in Hermes (Mike Smith); El Charro (no rider); Found Money (Mario Gutierrez); I’malreadythere (Rafael Bejarano); Laoban (Tyler Baze); Let’s Meet in Rio (Kent Desormeaux); Mineyerownmalone (no rider); Mor Spirit (Stevens); Path of David (no rider); Rare Candy (Joe Talamo); Sorryaboutnothing (Flavien Prat) and Uncle Lino (Fernando Perez).
Uncle Lino recently worked 5 furlongs with Perez up in 59.60 seconds in preparation for the Lewis Stakes.
“We’re trying to take the next step with him around two turns,” trainer Gary Sherlock said.
The Lewis, at 11⁄ miles, would be Uncle Lino’s first race longer than 6½ furlongs.