Royal Mo officially joined Grade 1-winning stablemate Gormley on the Triple Crown trail Saturday after a decisive score in the $150,000 Robert B. Lewis (G3) at Santa Anita.
Sent to the lead from post 1 as expected by Victor Espinoza, Royal Mo came under pressure from Irap approaching the backside and little separated the pair as Royal Mo carved out splits of :23.86, :47.57, and 1:11.50.
Under heavy pressure from Irap passing the quarter pole, Royal Mo nonetheless found more in reserve and opened up through the lane to score a convincing 3 1/2-length win in a time of 1:43.48 for 1 1/16 miles on a fast track. Irap was second, a neck ahead of 7-5 favorite Sheer Flattery.
The 3-2 second choice in a field of five, Royal Mo paid $5. It was the second Derby prep win of the Santa Anita meet for owners Jerry and Ann Moss and trainer John Shirreffs, who witnessed Gormley take the Sham (G3) last month.
“I was very happy with how he ran, the pace, the fractions, having that horse (Irap) outside of him, hooking him a little bit, so I think he showed a lot of character,” Shirreffs said.
“You take it as it comes,” he added when asked if he would keep Royal Mo and Gormley, who is targeting the March 11 San Felipe (G2), apart. “Obviously you don’t really want to run them together. We’ll just have to see how it goes. I haven’t spoken with Mr. Moss about that, so we’ll see.”
As part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, Royal Mo earned 10 points toward Derby eligibility in the Lewis. Irap earned four, Sheer Flattery two, and Term of Art one. The maiden Irap had previously earned four points with his second-place finish in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) in December.
Second in his first two outings, Royal Mo broke through in his two-turn debut November 27 at Del Mar, leading wire-to-wire and scoring by 1 1/4 lengths going a mile against maiden foes. He’s now earned $144,200 from his 4-2-2-0 line.
Bred in Kentucky by Brandywine Farm and a $300,000 Keeneland September yearling, Royal Mo is by Uncle Mo and out of Royal Irish Lass, by Saint Ballado. Royal Mo is a half-brother to the stakes-winning Tara From the Cape and counts as his second dam Grade 2 winner Irish Linnet.