Successful European soccer manager Jose Mourinho proclaimed himself “a Special One” prior to winning several Premier League titles with Chelsea.
Trainer Bob Baffert and owner Phoenix Thoroughbreds will be hoping his equine namesake will be special enough to win the 2018 Kentucky Derby.
Mourinho earned his first 10 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby table when he won the one-mile Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park Jan. 15, leading most of the way to triumph by 3 ¼ lengths from Combatant and justify 3-5 odds.
Bred by WinStar Farm, Mourinho was sold at the 2016 Keeneland September yearling sale for a modest $30,000. But by the time he reached the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. March sale of 2-year-olds he was much more popular with buyers, especially after he breezed a quarter-mile in 20 1/5 seconds, and he was sold for $625,000.
He had a high reputation when he made his debut over six furlongs at Santa Anita Sept. 30 and he duly won by 4 ½ lengths, with subsequent Lecomte Stakes (G3) victor Instilled Regard finishing third. He was then made favorite for the 6-furlong Speakeasy Stakes at Santa Anita Oct. 15 but unexpectedly finished second to Beautiful Shot.
Stepping up to graded stakes company, Mourinho finished second in the seven-furlong Bob Hope Stakes (G3) at Del Mar Nov. 11 behind Greyvitos – who subsequently beat Combatant in the Remington Springboard Mile – before his Smarty Jones Stakes victory.
In terms of his Kentucky Derby prospects, Mourinho has the advantage of being by Super Saver, the 2010 Kentucky Derby winner. Super Saver was one of two Kentucky Derby winners by Maria’s Mon, who was also the sire of 2001 Derby winner Monarchos.
Super Saver’s oldest progeny have just turned six, and they include 14 stakes winners. His daughter Embellish the Lace had the stamina to win the 1 ¼-mile Alabama Stakes (G1), but many of his other good progeny have been best up to a mile, including his best horse to date, 2015 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) winner Runhappy.
Mourinho’s distaff pedigree is more that of a sprinter. His dam Sandi’s Ready (More Than Ready) was stakes placed at 7 ½ furlongs in the South Beach Stakes, and none of the stakes-winning horses in the next two generations of her pedigree scored their triumphs at more than a mile.
However, Sandi’s Ready has already produced one stakes winner at more than a mile; her daughter Sandy’s Surprise (Drosselmeyer), who is a year older than Mourinho, won the 1 1/16-mile Zia Park Oaks in December 2017.
Mourinho has to date shown plenty of speed in his races, and both his racing style and his pedigree raise some doubts about his ability to stay the Kentucky Derby trip of 1 ¼ miles. Punters should watch his upcoming Derby prep runs to assess whether he has the requisite stamina for the Derby and if he is a wise bet.
(Mourinho Photo by Coady Photography/Oaklawn Park)