02/06/2016 7:34PM

Stevens, Baffert team up to score with Mor Spirit in Robert Lewis

Email
Emily Shields
Mor Spirit, ridden by Gary Stevens, scores as the heavy favorite in the Robert Lewis Stakes.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Bob Baffert and Gary Stevens won the Kentucky Derby in tandem in 1997 with Silver Charm, and those two Hall of Fame gunslingers are back on the Derby trail again this year with Mor Spirit, who made an appropriate stop along the way on Saturday at Santa Anita by capturing the Grade 3, $150,345 Robert Lewis Stakes, named for the man who owned Silver Charm.

 Mor Spirit sat third early behind I Will Score and Uncle Lino, moved to the three path on the far turn, and then overhauled Uncle Lino in deep stretch to prevail by 1 1/2 lengths. Uncle Lino, who secured the lead from I Will Score passing the eighth pole, finished another half-length back in third.

 Dressed in Hermes was fourth and was followed, in order, by Let’s Meet in Rio and Path of David. Laoban was scratched earlier in the day.

 Mor Spirit completed 1 1/16 miles on the fast main track in 1:43.21. He earned 10 points for the win under the system used by Churchill Downs to determine the field for the May 7 Derby, just as he did in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity on Dec. 19.

 Mor Spirit ($3.40) was heavily favored to emulate his performance in the Los Alamitos Futurity, but the Lewis looked like a potentially better field, and the pace was not as swift, with the first six furlongs in 1:12.34. Regardless, Mor Spirit – a long-striding son of Eskendereya – got to the leaders on the far turn and went on with it like a horse who will only do better the farther he goes, and with more pace at which to run.

 “His last race was a very important race,” Baffert said. “Gary, the way he rode him at Los Alamitos, found out how he wants to run, get him back. He really educated him and he got the win.

 “He’s got a long stride. In the morning he’s not a good work horse. He needs a target. And when he gets to his target, he shuts it down.”

 Stevens said he was worried he “got to the leaders quicker than I wanted” in the race.

“I was loaded turning into the stretch,” he said. “He’s a pretty special horse.”

 Mor Spirit is owned by Michael Lund Petersen.

 Baffert spent midweek in San Francisco doing media interviews at the Super Bowl with the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, and he was to return there Sunday for the game, which was on his mind leaving the winner’s circle, comparing his veteran rider to a veteran quarterback.

 “It’s fun working with Gary,” Baffert said. “He’s won a Derby for me before. I’ve got Peyton Manning.”