05/07/2017 7:37PM

Mor Spirit attains millionaire status by winning Steve Sexton Mile


GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - Mor Spirit capped a memorable weekend for Hall of Famers Bob Baffert and Mike Smith when he became a millionaire with his 5 3/4-length win over Texas Chrome in the Grade 3, $200,000 Steve Sexton Mile on Sunday at Lone Star Park.

Baffert and Smith on Friday teamed to win the Kentucky Oaks with Abel Tasman. Smith on Saturday accounted for the Grade 2 American Turf with Arklow on the Kentucky Derby undercard at Churchill Downs, and on Sunday, not long before Mor Spirit’s score, Baffert sent out Vale Dori to capture the Grade 3 Adoration at Santa Anita.

Mor Spirit ($2.80) set the pace on Sunday, putting up fractions of 24.14 seconds for the opening quarter-mile, 47.04 for the half-mile, and 1:11.35 for six furlongs. In the stretch, he separated himself from his rivals, going on to cover the mile on a fast track in 1:36.86. The win was the second straight stakes victory for Mor Spirit, who won the Essex Handicap in March at Oaklawn Park, with a Beyer Speed Figure of 105.

“I was little worried he was kind of backing up in the gate,” Smith said of the start Sunday. “I wasn’t sure he was going to jump well, but man, he moved forward right when they opened. It was a blessing. I was able to get a comfortable lead.

“He’s getting really good right now, this horse,” Smith said. “He’s better than he was as a 3-year-old and today, he was even better than his last race, which was a pretty incredible race as well.”

Baffert said last week the Steve Sexton Mile could set Mor Spirit up for a start in the Grade 1, $1.2 million Metropolitan Handicap on June 10 at Belmont Park. The horse was backing up in distance Sunday off a 1 1/16- mile  start in the Essex Handicap.

Lone Star renamed its Texas Mile the Steve Sexton Mile earlier this year to honor a member of its original management team who died in December at the age of 57. Baffert has now won the race four times, starting with the inaugural running with Isitingood (1997) and again in 2006 with Preachinatthebar and 2010 with Mythical Power.

Mor Spirit earned $122,000 for owner Michael Lund Peterson, pushing his career bankroll to $1,008,400. Mor Spirit has now won 5 of 12 starts, his most prestigious the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity in 2015. He is a ridgling by Eskendereya.

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Iron Fist finished third in the Steve Sexton Mile, and he was followed under the wire by Shotgun Kowboy, American Dubai, and F J Uncle Vic.

Lone Star handled $1,517,689 on its nine-race card from all sources Sunday. The attendance on-track was 8,353. Many in the crowded winner’s circle Sunday came in support of the family of Steve Sexton.