12/19/2015 9:18PM

Mor Spirit gives Baffert early Derby prospect by taking Los Alamitos Futurity

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Benoit & Associates
Heavily favored Mor Spirit, ridden by Gary Stevens, scores by 1 1/4 lengths in the Los Alamitos Futurity.

CYPRESS, Calif. – It can’t be easy to replace a Triple Crown winner, but trainer Bob Baffert is doing his best to stock up anew on Kentucky Derby prospects.

 Mor Spirit on Saturday stamped himself as a potential serious contender for the 2016 Derby by running down stablemate Toews On Ice to win the Grade 1, $350,000 Los Alamitos Futurity, a race Baffert won last year with Dortmund.

 Dortmund went on to win the Santa Anita Derby and then was third in the Kentucky Derby behind American Pharoah, and it looks like Mor Spirit will be given every chance to develop into a top prospect.

 On Saturday, Mor Spirit ($3.40) overcame a wide trip and a stubborn foe in Toews On Ice to get up in deep stretch and win by 1 1/4 lengths in the 1 1/16-mile race for 2-year-olds. Toews On Ice was six lengths in front of third-place I’malreadythere, followed by Urlacher, Frank Conversation, Hollywood Don, and Sorryaboutnothing in the field of seven.

 Mor Spirit raced three paths wide on both turns, then used the long stretch to run down Toews On Ice, who was making his first start around two turns.

 “He ran game,” Baffert said of Toews On Ice. “I knew the distance would be tough.”

 Mor Spirit gave Baffert a record eighth victory in the Futurity, which was run at Hollywood Park for its first 33 editions.

Mor Spirit, ridden by Gary Stevens, was timed in 1:43.54 on the fast main track.

 As with Dortmund, Mor Spirit was sent to Churchill Downs for his start prior to the Los Alamitos Futurity. He finished second in the Kentucky Jockey Club over a sloppy, sealed track. Baffert said Mor Spirit’s style was altered that day -- owing to the track being off -- by having him forwardly placed, but he went back to what worked in his maiden win Oct. 23 at Santa Anita, settling and making one run.

 “In Kentucky, with the mud and the slop, we didn’t want to take him back and get mud in his face,” said Baffert, who said he told Stevens to “sit and be patient” on Saturday.

 Mor Spirit has a bit of a connection to American Pharoah, who captured the Triple Crown this year. Mor Spirit is a son of Eskendereya, who was owned by Ahmed Zayat, who also owned American Pharoah. Mor Spirit was purchased by owner Michael Lund Petersen for $650,000 at Fasig-Tipton in Florida in March.

 “We’ve always been really high on him,” Baffert said. “We were a little bit disappointed with his race at Churchill.

 “Now we can sit back and pick our spots. We know he’ll ship.”

 And we know the desired destination next spring.