GROWTH MOST IMPORTANT FOR MOR SPIRIT
One of the toughest things in sports sometimes is seeing the bigger picture. Everybody wants to win right now, but how about the horizon and the everlasting imagines created over the long haul? Having the vision can be a bit of challenge, but that often times separates pretender from contender.
If you are wondering why Thoroughbred trainer Bob Baffert has won the holy grail of horse racing four times and garnered a Triple Crown along the way just think about his eyesight. While hauling home Kentucky Derby hardware, California’s top conditioner has been able to see the future and develop his horses for the first Saturday in May. Arguably the toughest race to win in the sport, the run for the roses always presents challenges along the way. But seeing that future mile and a quarter helps bring the magnificence.
As the calendar turns to 2016 and the Arizona native puts American Pharoah’s record setting grand slam (whoops, sorry Sports Illustrated!) in the books as one of the greatest athletic performances ever, he looks to the future. A very promising runner named Mor Spirit has Baffert once again thinking glory beneath the twin spires. This Pennsylvania-bred son of Eskenderyea might just have the goods to get Baffert another step closer to Ben Jones (6) in the Derby victory standings.
“I think Mor Spirit has a good mind and he is starting to figure some things out,” says Baffert. “He is not one dimensional and I think distance wise he can handle it. I like his tactical speed.”
The tactical speed of Mor Spirit was on display in his most recent run in the Los Alamitos Futurity. In winning the mile and a sixteenth grade 1 race, this son of Im A Dixie Girl ran off the pace under jockey Gary Stevens before opening up in the stretch and prevailing by a length and a half. His second career win in four lifetime starts was good for the juvenile for more reasons than just the first place money.
“Gary did a great job of schooling the horse and that is why he is a hall of famer,” says Baffert. “He made him stay in the pocket and take dirt in the face. A lot of horses don’t like that, but at times you may be in the situation where you have too. That helps them develop into a winner no matter what circumstances they face.”
Stevens and Baffert appear to be on the same page with the growth of Spirit. The pair of hall of famers have eyes on the end of the rainbow.
“Gary is one of those few jockeys that can ride a horse and tell you what he needs to do to get better,” says Baffert. “Gary fits this horse really well and they make a great team.”
“Bob has so much confidence in me to do what I think is best,” says Stevens. “He told me to take my time and let’s teach him how to be a race horse. It means a lot for the head coach to have enough confidence in you to know even if you have to take a sack on one play, you can throw a touchdown pass on the next.”
What’s up next for Mor Spirit is to be determined. He may campaign entirely in California or he may ship elsewhere for certain races. American Pharoah prepped in Arkansas as Baffert likes to ship in certain cases. Regardless of the route Spirit takes, he looks to be on the road to the Kentucky Derby.
“I think he gained a lot of confidence in the Futurity,” says Stevens. “He has been able to handle some different things in his brief career. We just want to help him grow mentally. It’s all between the ears.”