Tuesday, June 13, 2017

 

Oaklawn Report: Essex Handicap Winner Mor Spirit Takes Met Mile

 

Mor Spirit became the first horse to sweep Oaklawn’s Essex Handicap and Belmont Park’s prestigious Met Mile (G1) in the same year since 1989 with a powerful 6 ¼-length victory Saturday. The Bob Baffert-trainee earned a preliminary Beyer Speed Figure of 117 – a career high – after covering the distance in 1:33.71 over a fast track in the $1.2 million race, part of the Belmont Stakes undercard.

 

Mor Spirit, who paid $7.10 as the 5-2 favorite, represented the fourth victory on the program for the Hall of Fame combination of jockey Mike Smith and Baffert. He had earned a 105 Beyer, then a career high, for a 2 ½-length victory in the $250,000 Essex Handicap for older horses March 18.

 

Proper Reality won the Essex and Met Mile in 1989 for the late Bob Holthus, who collected nine Oaklawn training titles between 1967 and 1991.

 

Mor Spirit, a 4-year-old son of Eskendereya, increased his earnings to $1,658,400 following his sixth victory from 13 career starts. The Met Mile was his third consecutive victory since a second-place finish to stablemate Hoppertunity in the $300,000 San Antonio Stakes (G2) Feb. 4 at Santa Anita.

 

Hoppertunity won Oaklawn’s $600,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) for 3-year-olds in 2014.

 

A three-time Grade 1 winner, Proper Reality captured 10 of 19 career starts, including the 1988 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn, and earned $1,701,650. The Met Mile was Mor Spirit’s second Grade 1 victory.

 

In another stakes race Saturday at Belmont Park, Smith and Baffert teamed to win the $500,000 Woody Stephens (G2) for 3-year-olds at 7 furlongs with favored American Anthem ($5.90), who had finished 10th as the favorite in $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) March 18 at Oaklawn, the final major local prep for the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 15.

 

Recruiting Ready, winner of the $150,000 Bachelor Stakes April 13 at Oaklawn, finished third in the Woody Stephens. Petrov, fourth in the Rebel, finished fourth..

 

Smith and Baffert also teamed to win the $700,000 Acorn Stakes (G1) for 3-year-old fillies with Abel Tasman. Benner Island, runner-up in the $200,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) March 11 at Oaklawn, finished third.

 

In the $250,000 True North Stakes (G2) for older sprinters Friday at Belmont Park, multiple Oaklawn stakes winner Whitmore ran third. The gelding was 3 for 3 this year at Oaklawn, including $125,000 Hot Springs Stakes March 11 and $400,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) April 15.

 

Key Race

 

Heavily favored Chanel’s Legacy became the fourth graduate of this year’s Honeybee Stakes at Oaklawn to return and win a stake in the $65,000 Panthers Thursday at Prairie Meadows.

 

Ridden by Alex Birzer, Oaklawn’s sixth-leading rider this year, Chanel’s Legacy finished a neck ahead of Natalie’s Mischief in the mile race for 3-year-old fillies. It was 5 ¾ lengths farther back to Conquest Bandido in third.

 

Chanel’s Legacy ($2.40) ran the mile over a fast track in 1:37.77. She was making her first start since finishing second in the $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) April 14 at Oaklawn (Conquest Bandido ran ninth).

 

Chanel’s Legacy started five times at Oaklawn, winning the $125,000 Dixie Belle Stakes Jan. 21 and $125,000 Martha Washington Stakes Feb. 11, running sixth in the $200,000 Honeybee (G3) March 11 and second in the $150,000 Purple Martin Stakes March 25 before the Fantasy.

 

Previous Honeybee starters to return and win stakes races were Ever So Clever (Fantasy), Benner Island ($200,000 Eight Belles, G2) and Someday Soon ($75,000 Tomboy).

 

Trained by Oaklawn regular Lynn Chleborad, Chanel’s Legacy raised her career earnings to $397,711 following her fifth victory from 11 starts. The Panthers is a major local prep for the $200,000 Iowa Oaks (G3) July 6.

 

Honeybee 11th Lovely Bernadette won an allowance/optional claimer last Thursday at Churchill Downs.

Two other Honeybee starters, Elate (third) and Tapa Tapa Tapa (fourth), are entered in the $50,000 Light Hearted Stakes Thursday at Delaware Park.

 

Finish Lines

Ricardo Santana Jr., Oaklawn’s leading rider the last five years, won the $150,000 Tremont Stakes for 2-year-olds Friday at Belmont Park aboard He Hate Me ($13.80). It was Santana’s first victory since moving his tack from Churchill Downs to New York last week. … Jerrid ($9) won the $65,000 Prairie Mile Stakes for 3-year-olds Friday at Prairie Meadows, his first start since finishing fifth in the $150,000 Northern Spur Stakes April 15 at Oaklawn. … Power of Snunner ($10), who ran fourth in the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) for older fillies and mares March 18 at Oaklawn, won Saturday’s $100,000 Obeah Stakes Saturday at Delaware Park. … Gun Runner worked a half-mile in :49.40 Monday morning at Churchill Downs in preparation for its $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) Saturday. Gun Runner won the $500,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) for older horses Feb. 20 at Oaklawn.

 

-30-