September 28, 2023

Mo Forza returns in Del Mar Mile

Mo Forza wins the Hollywood Derby
Mo Forza wins the Hollywood Derby (Benoit Photo)

One of the hottest turf horses in the country last fall, comebacker Mo Forza hopes to kick off another big second half in Sunday’s $150,000 Del Mar Mile Handicap (G2).

The Peter Miller trainee graduated from an overdue maiden win to add three straight stakes – the Twilight Derby (G2), Hollywood Derby (G1), and Mathis Brothers Mile (G2). His late-season boomlet made him a 2019 Eclipse Award finalist in the turf male category. Although the honor was won unanimously by Bricks and Mortar, who was also voted Horse of the Year, Mo Forza had arrived as a major divisional player.

His newfound status was put to the test in the Jan. 25 Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1), but Mo Forza endured the widest trip around Gulfstream Park (91 feet more than the victorious Zulu Alpha, according to Trakus) and wound up ninth. A projected trip for the Mar. 28 Dubai Turf (G1) was scrapped when Miller wasn’t satisfied with the colt’s training, and the son of Uncle Mo was given time off in anticipation of resuming at Del Mar.

Mo Forza makes two changes for the Del Mar Mile. The blinkers come off, and Flavien Prat climbs aboard. Drawn in post 4, Mo Forza figures to enjoy a better passage than in the Pegasus.

Ten others are in the field, but cross-entered Sharp Samurai, runner-up in the past two runnings, is expected to go in Saturday’s Pacific Classic (G1) according to Daily Racing Form.

Uncle Mo has another top contender in Galilean. Once on the 2019 Kentucky Derby trail for Jerry Hollendorfer, he is currently thriving in the John Sadler barn. Galilean has won his past two in Cal-restricted stakes, including the July 26 California Dreamin’ in his turf debut on this course. While he loses Prat to Mo Forza, he picks up Umberto Rispoli.

Richard Mandella unveils Brazilian import Royal Ship, who brings a five-race winning streak from Gavea. The son of Midshipman was last seen landing the Feb. 9 Gran Premio Estado do Rio de Janeiro (G1), the opening jewel of Rio’s Triple Crown over a metric mile. Mike Smith will ride Royal Ship in his U.S. debut for Fox Hill Farms and Siena Farms, the same partnership that brought over past Brazilian star Bal a Bali. Stablemate Bombard, sidelined for a year after taking the 2019 Wickerr, just missed in his turf sprint comeback and gets Drayden Van Dyke.

Miller is likewise double-handed with new recruit The Black Album. The French Group 3 winner has captured a pair of North American stakes, the 2019 Charlie Barley and the July 8 Jonathan B. Shuster Memorial at Indiana Grand in his sole 2020 outing. Offered five days later at Fasig-Tipton’s July Horses of Racing Age Sale, The Black Album RNA’d for $240,000 but subsequently changed hands. The newly gelded son of Wootton Bassett will break from the rail with Abel Cedillo.

Recent Wickerr winner Bob and Jackie and runner-up Kiwi’s Dream; Restrainedvengence, fourth in the June 14 San Francisco Mile (G3) in his latest; Overdue, sidelined since fading to sixth in the Jan. 4 San Gabriel (G2); and class-challenged Dreams of Valor round out the field.