Mo Strike looks to double up on Spa stakes scores in G1 Hopeful
by Mary Eddy
Nasser Bin Omairah’s undefeated Mo Strike will vie for his second graded stakes win of the meet in Monday’s Grade 1, $300,000 Hopeful for juveniles sprinting seven furlongs at Saratoga Race Course.
Trained by two-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox, Mo Strike was last seen defeating a 12-horse field in the Grade 3 Sanford on July 16 at the Spa, pouncing from a half-length off the pace under Florent Geroux to draw away to an impressive 3 1/2-length victory. He completed the six furlongs in 1:11.35 and earned an 85 Beyer Speed Figure for the effort.
“We didn’t get a work before the Sanford and shipped in about five days before the race, but he handled it fine,” said Brad Cox’s son and assistant, Blake Cox.
The Sanford was Mo Strike’s first outing against winners after a determined debut score sprinting 5 1/2 furlongs in June at Churchill Downs. There, he delivered a similar performance to his Sanford score and rallied from just behind the pacesetter to take the lead and hold off Summonyourcourage in the stretch. It was another 1 1/4 lengths back to Disarm, who went on to post a strong 6 1/4-length victory in his next start at the Spa.
“He’s doing great. He’s been feeling really good and came out of the Sanford in good order,” said Cox. “He’s been working every seven days.”
Mo Strike will leave post 5 with Geroux aboard.
Trainer Chad Brown will look to secure his second win in this event with promising maiden winner Blazing Sevens, a dominant open-lengths winner of his July 24 debut at Saratoga in a 6 1/2-furlong maiden sprint. The runner-up in that race, fellow Hopeful aspirant Bourbon Bash, returned to break his maiden next out by eight lengths at the Spa.
Owned by Rodeo Creek Racing, the son of Good Magic was a $225,000 purchase at last year’s Fasig-Tipton New York Saratoga Select Yearling Sale from the Eaton Sales consignment. The first foal out of the Warrior’s Reward mare Trophy Girl, Blazing Sevens’ second dam, Storm West, produced Grade 1 winner King David.
Blazing Sevens breezed a half-mile in 1:01.95 on August 28 over the main track in his final preparation of the Hopeful.
“The form looked good in his last race,” said Brown. “He had his last breeze [on Sunday] for the Hopeful, so we’ll see.”
Manny Franco has the call again from post 6.
Stakes-winner Gulfport will return to the scene of his first career loss when he finished a troubled second in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special behind Damon’s Mound on August 13. Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen for owners William Heiligbrodt, Corinne Heiligbrodt, Jackpot Farm, Whispering Oaks Farm and Coolmore Stud, Gulfport was an emphatic 12 1/4-length winner of the Bashford Manor in his stakes debut on July 4 at Churchill Downs.
In the Saratoga Special, Gulfport raced one length off the pace in third and traveled well throughout the first half-mile, but was checked and steadied in the turn and lost position before re-rallying to come up 3 1/4 lengths shy.
Flavien Prat will ride for the first time from post 4.
Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable’s Forte will hope to regroup from an even fourth-place effort last out in the Sanford. A 7 3/4-length winner in his May 27 debut for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher at Belmont Park, Forte closed from seventh-of-12 in the Saratoga Special, but could not catch up to a runaway Mo Strike.
Pletcher said Forte should benefit from the extra furlong in the Hopeful.
“The track was probably a little deep for his liking [in the Sanford]. The pace didn’t come back much,” said Pletcher. “I think he should appreciate the added distance.”
The son of Violence will exit post 2 with returning rider Irad Ortiz, Jr. in the irons.
Completing the field are Bourbon Bash and stablemate Western Ghent, who will try to give their Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas a record-extending ninth Hopeful victory and first since Sporting Chance took down the 2017 edition.
Campaigned by BC Stables, Bourbon Bash scored his last out maiden victory with ease, leading the field of nine at every point of call and widening his margin down the stretch to coast home eight lengths in front. A son of City of Light, Bourbon Bash was a $280,000 purchase at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
Bourbon Bash recorded a bullet half-mile breeze in 47.30 over the Oklahoma training track on August 23.
"He woke up in that race,” Lukas said of his maiden effort. “That was a pivotal race I think for him. He came around and since has trained really strong. It'll be interesting to see if he can step up in the Hopeful."
Western Ghent wheels back on 11 days rest after graduating by a head for a $75,000 tag here on August 25. The dark bay American Pharoah colt will be making his fourth start of the Saratoga meet after two non-threatening maiden special weight efforts and his maiden claiming score. Owned by Lukas with Bob Ghent, Ann Ghent and Laurie Lukas, Western Ghent was an $80,000 buy at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
Tyler Gaffalione will ride Bourbon Bash from post 3 while Western Ghent will emerge from post 1 in rein to Luis Saez.
The Hopeful is slated as Race 11 on Monday’s Closing Day card, which also features the Grade 3, $200,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap in Race 3. First post on the 12-race card is 12:35 p.m. Eastern.
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