Photo: Coady Photography
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert sent Mor Spirit from his Southern California base in search of a little class relief, and the 4-year-old colt found it in the 69th edition of the Essex Handicap at Oaklawn, when the prohibitive 1-2 favorite bested a tough field of seven others aged four and up.
Mor Spirit, who was making his third start of the year after competing in the Malibu Stakes (G1) and the San Antonio Handicap (G2) at Santa Anita, covered the 1 1/16 mile on a fast track in 1:41.62 under Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith to prevail by 2 1/2 length on the fast Oaklawn strip. The final time for Michael Lund Peterson’s son of Eskendereya was the fastest the Essex has been run in 30 years.
Nonetheless it wasn’t easy for Mor Spirit, who was challenged into the far turn and didn’t get his head in front until the field turned for home. He dug down deep under steady urging while Domain’s Rap, a 9-year-old gelding who was making the 63rd start of his career and was ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan, closed strongly down the stretch to just nose out the Todd Pletcher-trained Madefromlucky and jockey Javier Castellano.
“He ran great, ain’t no doubt about it. He’s 9 years old. We think the world of him. He’s a good horse,” said Federico Villafranco, the trainer of Domain’s Rap.
The Pennsylvania-bred Mor Spirit improved to 4-5-0 from 10 starts and increased his earnings to $886,400.
Following Mor Spirit, Domain’s Rap and Madefromlucky to the wire were Dazzling Gem, Secret Passage, Shotgun Kowboy and Dalmore.
Source: Oaklawn Park