Mor Spirit brings lofty expectations into his 3-year-old bow, Saturday’s $150,000 Robert B. Lewis (G3) at Santa Anita. The Grade 1 winner is a leading West Coast prospect for four-time Kentucky Derby winner Bob Baffert, trainer of 2015 Triple Crown scorer American Pharoah, and he’s favored at 8-5 on the morning line.
The Lewis serves as a qualifier in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, offering points on a 10-4-2-1 scale to the top four finishers.
A sharp maiden winner at Santa Anita three starts back, Mor Spirit concluded his juvenile campaign on an excellent note, finishing second in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs before posting a convincing victory in the December 19 Los Alamitos Futurity (G1).
The dark bay ridgling is a son of the Grade 1-winning Eskendreya, the expected favorite for the 2010 Kentucky Derby before being sidelined by injury. Mor Spirit will square off against six rivals in the 1 1/16-mile Lewis and three-time Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Gary Stevens has the call.
Baffert, who is seeking to extend his record with a sixth Lewis victory, will also send out Let’s Meet in Rio, a fast-closing second in the January 9 Sham (G3) at Santa Anita. Kent Desormeaux rides.
I Will Score is an exciting 3-year-old making his stakes and two-turn debut. Unbeaten from two starts, the Jerry Hollendorfer trainee returned from a four-month layoff with a nice allowance tally on January 3, registering a 96 BRIS Speed rating that is equal to the number earned by Mor Spirit in the Los Almitos Futurity. Mike Smith, who has been up for both starts, retains the mount and I Will Score is listed as the 5-2 second choice on the morning line.
Dressed in Hermes, winner of the November 29 Cecil DeMille (G3) at Del Mar in his last outing, is one of two stakes winners going turf to dirt in the Lewis along with Path of David, hero of the December 31 Eddie Logan at Santa Anita. Uncle Lino exits a close third to I Will Score in the aforementioned allowance and is a son of Uncle Mo, the record-breaking leading freshman sire in 2015. The maiden Laoban, third in the Sham last time, rounds out the field.
Mor Spirit photo courtesy of Benoit Photos