Showing speed from the start, Mo Strike dueled until powering clear in the latter stages of Saturday’s $175,000 Sanford S. (G3) at Saratoga, scoring by a 3 1/2-length margin. The Brad Cox-trained Uncle Mo colt was exiting a frontrunning debut maiden win at Churchill Downs in mid-June, and Florent Geroux retained the mount on the promising two-year-old.
“I was very pleased with his effort,” Geroux said. “The last eighth of a mile, I felt the race was pretty much over and he was just keeping along nicely. If someone else was going to attack me, I felt I had another gear to fight them down.
Mo Strike, off as the 8-1 fifth choice among 12 juveniles, clocked six furlongs in 1:11.35. Owner Nasser Bin Omairah purchased the bay Kentucky-bred for $325,000 at the OBS April sale earlier this year, and Mo Strike became the second graded winner from the stakes-winning Smart Strike mare Featherbed.
His pedigree is geared toward longer distances, and Mo Strike established himself as a major player in the two-year-old division with the convincing triumph.
“I think the key, especially on young horses, is about position and how well they can handle themselves,” Geroux said. “He’s a very smart horse, he can break sharp and relax nicely. So, when you ask him down the lane, he has another gear to go on.”
Mo Strike and Curly Jack hooked up after the break, with the latter narrowly showing the way through opening splits in :22.59 and :45.94. Mo Strike drew even on the far turn, and Andiamo a Firenze ranged up three-wide to join the fray entering the stretch.
Andiamo a Firenze loomed a serious threat as Curly Jack gave way about a furlong from home, but Mo Strike kept plugging away to the inside and found his best stride late as he won with authority.
“I mean, I didn’t really know how the pace would set up,” Cox said. “He broke and put himself right there, I saw the 22 and (two), and I thought if he was there and he was doing it, he would have something to finish up with. He galloped out really well in his first run and he’s a pretty intelligent horse. I think he can stretch a bit – I’m not going to say he’s going to go a mile and a quarter just yet, but he’s a nice horse that I think his biggest asset is his mind.”
Great Navigator, who surrendered the early advantage after breaking on top and closely stalked along the rail, swung out for clear sailing in midstretch and finished with good energy to be a clear second at 18-1, 3 1/2 lengths clear of 4-1 Andiamo a Firenze in third.
It was two more lengths back to 7-5 favorite Forte, who lacked the needed late kick from midpack. Curly Jack, Major Dude, Roman Giant, Prove Right, Valenzan Day, Boppy O, I’m Wide Awake, and Puttheblameonme completed the order.
Bred by Blue Heaven Farm and Ashford Stud, Mo Strike likely will target the $300,000 Hopeful (G1) at seven furlongs on the closing-day Sept. 5 program at Saratoga.
“I don’t think it would be a problem,” Cox said when asked about seven furlongs. “It’s obviously early in the meet, but I think this track can be a little laboring, maybe the first day and not as much yesterday, but I witnessed some workers here this morning – it can be challenging for horses and he got through it, so that’s an advantage moving forward.”