Belmont Stakes Day 2017 may be remembered more as the Bob & Mike Show. The Hall of Fame duo of trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Mike Smith teamed up for their fourth stakes win on the afternoon when Mor Spirit romped by 6 1/4 lengths as the 5-2 choice in the $1.2 million Metropolitan H. (G1).
A tracking second behind Sharp Azteca through splits of :23.20 and :46.05, Mor Spirit surpassed that rival on the turn, passing the three quarter mark a half-length in front in 1:10.10. In the lane, the Michael Lund Petersen-owned four-year-old ran the field off their feet and stopped the timer in 1:33.71 for a mile over the fast track.
Baffert and Smith teamed up earlier to win the Easy Goer with West Coast, the Acorn (G1) with Abel Tasman, and the Woody Stephens (G2) with American Anthem. Smith also rode dual champion Songbird to victory in the Ogden Phipps (G1).
“That was pretty impressive, I have to admit. All my horses were impressive today, but this horse the way he ran today, how fast he ran it was incredible,” Baffert said.
Mor Spirit paid $7.10. Sharp Azteca was second best by 3 1/4 lengths over 15-1 chance Tommy Macho. Rounding out the order of finish were Awesome Slew, Economic Model, Rally Cry, Tom’s Ready, Solid Wager, Virtual Machine, Denman’s Call, Mohaymen, and Inside Straight.
Smith praised Baffert’s horsemanship, which was on full display Saturday.
“[Baffert] is tremendous. He is so good and analyzing these horses, understanding what their best at, good at cutting some back like American Anthem doing different things with them. It’s amazing and fun to watch,” Smith said.
A classic-bound candidate from the start, Mor Spirit won the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) and finished second in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at two. After a season-opening win in the Robert B. Lewis (G3), the colt finished second in the San Felipe (G2) and Santa Anita Derby (G1), then was knocked out for most of the rest of 2016 season after running 10th in the Kentucky Derby (G1).
Fourth in the December 26 Malibu (G1) in his comeback from a layoff approaching eight months, More Spirit ran stablemate Hoppertunity to a length in the San Antonio (G2). He’s been on the winning note of late, though, comfortably taking the $250,000 Essex H. at Oaklawn and the Steve Sexton Mile (G3) at Lone Star in his last two starts. His record now stands at 13-6-5-0, $1.658,400.
“We took a different route to get here and sometimes it doesn’t work out but today it did,” Baffert said. “It’s funny; people were trying to buy this horse earlier in the year and I said no, he’s worth a lot more than that and actually when people are trying to buy your horse that’s a good thing. That means your horse is training well and the word’s out.”
Bred in Pennsylvania by Elkstone Group, an $85,000 Fasig-Tipton October yearling and $650,000 Fasig-Tipton March juvenile buy, Mor Spirit is by Eskendereya and out of the multiple stakes-winning Im a Dixie Girl, by Dixie Union. This is the family of champion filly Stellar Wind and Grade 1 winner Great Hunter.