California invader Mor Spirit, the 2-year-old Pennsylvania-bred who was an impressive 4 ¼-length maiden winner at Santa Anita last month, is “testing the waters” in Saturday’s 89th running of the $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club Presented by TwinSpires.com (Grade II), according to Hall of Farm trainer Bob Baffert’s chief assistant Jimmy Barnes.
“We just kind of want to see what he can really do,” Barnes said. “We want to see how he ships and how he handles being on the road, but he fits in the race. When we come this time of year we try to bring a 2-year-old with us to test the waters and see where we stand. It seems like he’s taking to the track real well. He galloped on it and just glided over it.”
Saturday’s National Weather Service forecast for Louisville calls for a 60 percent chance of rain on Friday night and a 90 percent chance of on Saturday. With only two starts under his belt in California, Mor Spirit, a son of Eskendreya, has yet to run on an off track.
“Not sure if it will be the same surface with rain in the forecast, but we’ll see,” Barnes said. “I don’t think that an off track would bother him.”
The 1 1/16-mile Kentucky Jockey Club field from rail out (with jockey and odds): Force It (Emmanuel Esquivel; 20-1), Nana Looch (Robby Albarado; 50-1), Airoforce (Julien Leparoux; 3-1), Gun Runner (Ricardo Santana, Jr.; 8-1), Perfect Saint (Shaun Bridgmohan; 30-1), Derby Express (Malcolm Franklin; 30-1), Tom’s Ready (Brian Hernandez, Jr.; 15-1), Discreetness (Jon Court; 20-1), Mor Spirit (Martin Garcia; 7-2), Mo Tom (Corey Lanerie; 8-1), Annual Report (Joe Bravo; 5-1), Rated R Superstar (Calvin Borel; 8-1), My Majestic Flight (Joe Johnson; 30-1), Uncle Jerry (Mitchell Murrill; 30-1).
ANNUAL REPORT LOOKS TO STAY UNDEFEATED IN SATURDAY’S KENTUCKY JOCKEY CLUB - Godolphin Racing LLC’s Annual Report will attempt to keep a flawless record intact against a full field of juveniles in Saturday’s $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club (GII).
In September, the homebred son of Harlan’s Holiday broke his maiden with a 5 ¼-length romp at Parx Racing, which was followed by a victory in the Futurity (GII) at Belmont Park. While neither of these races was run around two turns, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin is not concerned with how the horse will handle stretching out.
“The two turns shouldn’t be a problem, but you never know until you try it out,” McLaughlin said via telephone. “The post is more of a concern than the distance. We’re breaking from the 11-hole in a very competitive full field of 14 which should be tough.”
McLaughlin also has a highly regarded 2-year-old in Shadwell Stables’ Mohaymen, who will compete in the $300,000 Remsen (GII) at Aqueduct on Saturday Nov. 28.
“We’re lucky to have some good 2-year-olds in our barn this year with these two [Mohaymen and Annual Report],” he said. “It worked out well that they’re both on the same schedule this weekend. We decided to leave Mohaymen up in New York and take Annual Report to Churchill. It’s always nice to see if you have a 2-year-old that can run well at Churchill for the future and that could be good enough for the Kentucky Derby.”
McLaughlin also gave a quick update on Frosted, who was a well-beaten seventh behind Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in last month’s Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) at Keeneland.
“Frosted is doing well,” McLaughlin said. “He’s just training down at Palm Meadows right now. If he’s up for it, we’ll target the Dubai World Cup, probably with a race before that.”
CARINA MIA STRETCHES OUT TO TWO TURNS IN SATURDAY’S GOLDEN ROD – Three Chimneys Farm LLC’s Carina Mia, a 9 ¾-length winner last time out in a maiden special weight at Keeneland, will be stretching out to two turns for the first time when she takes on eight other 2-year-old fillies in Saturday’s $200,000 Golden Rod Presented by TwinSpires.com (GII)over 1 1/16 miles on the Churchill Downs main track.
Trainer Bill Mott’s assistant Kenny McCarthy wants to see how well the daughter of Malibu Moon will handle the increase in distance.
“The big question mark will be the two turns and that’s what we all want to find out,” McCarthy said. “But she’s on the improve with each start. I think with anything she’s developed a bit more maturity with these two races under her belt and she ran so well the first time and came back to run an excellent race the second time. She’s very professional with everything and has been a pleasure to train so she’s one of the fillies that’s pretty easy to deal with.”
In Carina Mia’s two career starts, she has been on the lead. McCarthy expects to see the same running style when she runs in the Golden Rod.
“I would think so,” he said. “If you look at her two races, and it’s pretty obvious what she wants to do. If someone wants to come with her then she’s still going to go out there and set a good pace. Hopefully, they leave her alone but who knows.”
Jockey Julien Leparoux, the pilot in both of the filly’s career starts, will return to the saddle for Saturday’s race, and also believes that the two turns is a bit of a question mark.
“We’ll see how she does her first time around two turns,” Leparoux said. “But we have to try it at some point anyway so we’ll see how she runs Saturday. She’s a very nice filly and she’s got a lot of abilities so I’m pretty excited to ride her again and see what we’ve got going long. I think she’s already proved that she’s something special. There will be less speed in the race so if we can relax by our self it will help the pace. We’ll ride with confidence and see what happens.”
Although the two turns is a new thing for Carina Mia, Leparoux is still confident that his filly has what it takes to run another big race.
“I really like the way she did it and how she won last time,” he said. “She won with ease and still ran a fast race. The first time she got beat by a really nice filly [Stageplay] that came back and won [the Rags to Riches Stakes on opening day], but she won last time so hopefully this time around we can beat her Saturday.”
The Golden Rod field from the rail out (with jockey and odds): Susies Yankee Girl (Robby Albarado; 10-1), Sugar Cone (Joe Rocco, Jr.; 12-1), Stageplay (Ricardo Santana, Jr.; 5-2), Thump (Sophie Doyle; 50-1), Cold Dish (Calvin Borel; 20-1), Charlotte Marie (Jack Gilligan; 50-1), Dream Dance (Brian Hernandez, Jr.; 6-1), Carina Mia (Julien Leparoux; 2-1), Dothraki Queen (Corey Lanerie; 5-2).
ASMUSSEN SEEKS GOLDEN ROD-KENTUCKY JOCKEY CLUB DOUBLE – Trainer Steve Asmussen will be going for a stakes double with Mike Rutherford’s Stageplay in Saturday’s $200,000 Golden Rod (GII) and Ron Winchell’s Gun Runner in the $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club (GII), both run over 1 1/16 miles on the Churchill Downs main track.
The last trainer to sweep both the Golden Rod and Kentucky Jockey Club was Bob Baffert in 1998, winning the Golden Rod with eventual Kentucky Oaks winner Silverbulletday and the Kentucky Jockey Club with Exploit.
Asmussen’s chief assistant Scott Blasi has been overseeing the horse’s preparations for their starts this weekend.
“The main thing is simply getting it done,” Blasi said. “They’re both looking like competitive fields and we’re going to have to get good trips and the horses are going to have to really run their races.”
Stageplay is coming off of an impressive victory on opening day in the Rags to Riches, which she won by 1 ½ lengths.
“I think she’s got a lot of talent and I thought we got a good post,” Blasi said of the homebred daughter of Curlin. “We got the mile prep in here. Hopefully this is the next step.”
Blasi went on to discuss how both 2-year-olds have developed through this year, stating that filly Stageplay is a little more mature than her stable mate.
“He [Gun Runner] is maturing but I don’t think he’s quite as professional as the filly,” Blasi said. “She’s just very straight forward and easy to be around. She just does things so easy. Gun Runner is real playful and he’s still got a lot of little boy in him. Gun Runner is still in that stage where he likes to nip and play and jack around with the pony, but he’s going to overcome that. As you get more races in him, he’ll get over that. I think the fillies are always a little more forward than the colts. It sometimes can take them awhile to come around. He’s all business when you put him to work; it’s just everything in between.
“Hopefully if it rains, their talent can overcome that. These babies have never run on the mud before so hopefully it doesn’t matter.”
CONQUEST BIG E EYES CONFIDENCE BOOST ALLOWANCE – Conquest Stables’ Conquest Big E, eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) at Keeneland, will be looking for a boost in confidence when takes a drop in class for Saturday’s 10th race at Churchill Downs, a first-level allowance optional claiming event over one mile on the main track.
Norman Casse, assistant to father Mark, believes that the son of Tapit has a bright future ahead of him but could use some mental development.
“We think that he’s a super talented horse, but also that mentally he’s not as far along as a horse like Airoforce [entered in Kentucky Jockey Club] so we want to give him a confidence booster,” Casse said. “His biggest Achilles heel is his mind. Being around him I can tell he’s gotten better with every start. Once he starts putting it together, he’ll be a really good race horse. This is one of those deals where you can’t really train it; you just have to let him get better as he runs in these races. I think he’ll be mentally ready around Derby time.”
Conquest Big E will be breaking from post 7, which Casse believes will be in his favor.
“I’m really happy with the post position; I think he likes being outside of horses,” he said. “We’re really happy to see him run again because we think he’s so talented.”
Conquest Big E did not get such a post in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile when he broke from the 1 hole.
“When we got the post positions for the Breeders’ Cup we were actually really happy,” Casse said. “At Keeneland with that short stretch we thought that the mile-and-a-sixteenth short stretch would be better than being drawn outside, but if you watch the race you could tell he was very uncomfortable. He just wasn’t being himself. He didn’t like being inside of horses; he gets intimidated easily. We really think that he ran a real good race in the Breeders’ Cup all things considered so he definitely likes being outside and being more in control of himself.”
He received a lot of attention at the betting window last time going off at 14-1 odds, a big difference from his 30-1 morning line odds. “The word’s out on him a little bit,” Casse said. “He’s a horse that is easy to know he’s a good horse because of how he trains. He goes out and he trains like a good horse and he looks good breezing.”
UNEXPLAINED STRETCHING OUT – Midwest Thoroughbreds’ Unexplained will stretch out from seven furlongs to one mile when he takes on nine others in Churchill Downs’ 10th race, a first-level allowance optional claiming event over one mile on the main track, which trainer Chris Richard believes will be to his benefit.
“He has the looks of a horse that would really benefit from routing,” Richard said. “He doesn’t have a whole lot of gate speed. But I do like the one turn mile with him and I think he’s a really nice horse. He definitely has the looks of a horse that would benefit from two turns. This is a really competitive spot and looks like it could be a tough race, so we’re really going to have to run big on Saturday.”
While Richard has high hopes for the son of Ghostzapper, he is taking things slow with the horse and acknowledges that the horse would have to run a good race Saturday in order for him to start thinking big.
“We’d love to look for more competitive spots for him as a 3-year-old like the Smarty Jones and some of the other races at Oaklawn, but he has to prove himself [Saturday] before we start thinking like that. I’m not trying to get too far ahead of myself.”