Sunday’s $152,000 Del Mar Mile Handicap (G2) was decided in a couple of strides when 6-5 favorite Mo Forza seized an inside seam and zoomed clear in a flash. Fresh off a seven-month layoff, the Peter Miller trainee reasserted himself as a force in the turf ranks – just in time for the Breeders’ Cup.
The only possible sign of rust was that Mo Forza broke a beat slow, but smoothly regrouped with Flavien Prat and parked in midpack. Up front, a mad pace duel was unfolding between 90-1 longshot Dreams of Valor and Kiwi’s Dream. After an opening quarter in :22.59, Kiwi’s Dream headed Dreams of Valor through unsustainable :45.84 and 1:09.69.
Mo Forza was well placed in the chasing group, saving ground in the slipstream of Bombard who alongside Galilean comprised the second flight. When Dreams of Valor gave way turning for home, Kiwi’s Dream inherited the lead, but he too was laboring, and Mo Forza was full of run looking for a gap.
Knifing between the two exhausted pacesetters, Mo Forza opened up by 4 1/4 lengths. The Uncle Mo colt maintained his focus, while taking the blinkers off here, and finished in 1:33.27.
The 14-1 Restrainedvengence had to circumnavigate wider out and did well to place second, a head to the good of Brazilian import Royal Ship who rallied from last in his U.S. premiere. Bob and Jackie got up for fourth, followed by Galilean, Overdue, Bombard, Kiwi’s Dream, and Dreams of Valor. The Black Album, Miller’s other entrant, was scratched, as was Sharp Samurai who was runner-up in Saturday’s Pacific Classic (G1) to Maximum Security.
Mo Forza was completing a hat trick on the Sunday card for the Miller/Prat tandem. Prat was registering his 10th stakes win of the summer meet, closing in on Rafael Bejarano’s record of 13 for a single season at Del Mar.
“Peter and I talked before the race,” Prat said, “and we noted that there looked like a lot of speed in the race. That turned out true. He told me he took his blinkers off and he was hoping for the best. I had a good trip; my horse was relaxed. Then, when I say ‘Go,’ he had a really strong response.”
“That gave me goose pimples,” Miller said. “I was just hoping I had him tight enough and ready to perform. These were a good group of horses, but he’s exceptional. To see this horse back in the winner’s circle is really exciting.
“He had a tendency to get rank in his races last year and wanted to run over horses, so we thought we didn’t want that problem this year so we took the blinkers off. He’s been working without them and I thought that if it doesn’t work out I’m going to look like an idiot, but thank goodness it worked out. We think the Breeders’ Cup will definitely be the end of the year with one race in between.”
Co-owned by breeder Barry Abrams’ Bardy Racing and OG Boss, Mo Forza was last seen finishing a wide-trip ninth in the Jan. 25 Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1). He’d previously won four straight including last fall’s Twilight Derby (G2), Hollywood Derby (G1), and Mathis Brothers Mile (G2), and his Del Mar Mile improved his mark to 11-5-3-1, $614,460.
The Kentucky-bred is the first foal from the Unusual Heat mare Inflamed, a full sister to the Abrams-trained Grade 2 winner Burns and Grade 1-placed Brushburn.