Mor Spirit Reigns for Baffert, Smith in Met Mile
By Alicia Wincze Hughes, courtesy Blood-Horse
One didn't need to look at a tote board or study any past performances lines to figure what the outcome of the $1.2 million Mohegan Sun Metropolitan Handicap (G1) would be.
Based solely off what had already played out on the Belmont Park oval leading into the eight-furlong test, the combined presence from a pair of Hall of Famers figured yet again to be an unbeatable force.
On the day the final leg of the Triple Crown was to be contested, trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Mike Smith flew in and completely owned the blockbuster slate of stakes June 10. When the hard-knocking Mor Spirit took it to Sharp Azteca early and then put that one in his place en route to a 6 1/4-length win in the Met Mile, it marked the fourth victory on the day for Baffert and fifth triumph for Smith—all coming in stakes.
The betting public heeded what was taking place Saturday and sent Mor Spirit off at 5-2 favoritism in the 12-horse field. The 4-year-old Eskendereya ridgling held up his end of the bargain and kept a brilliant day going for his reinsman when he raced off Sharp Azteca's throat through fractions of :23.20 and :46.05.
Mor Spirit rolled up to stick a head in front coming off the final turn and the result was a foregone conclusion from there. With Smith applying some left-handed encouragement, they hit the wire in 1:33.71. Mor Spirit paid $7.10, $4.10, and $3.30 across the board.
Sharp Azteca finished second, with Tommy Macho third and Awesome Slew fourth.
Mor Spirit earned guaranteed entry into the 2017 Las Vegas Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile at Del Mar through the Breeders' Cup Challenge program with his Met Mile win.