Login

Lost your password?
Don't have an account? Sign Up

Cox, Geroux take Sanford with Churchill maiden winner Mo Strike

By Keith McCalmont, NYRA publicity (Photo of Mo Strike winning Sanford courtesy Coglianese Photography/Susie Raisher)

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Nasser Bin Omairah’s Mo Strike attended a strong pace but had plenty of stamina to spare en route to an impressive score in Saturday’s Grade 3, $175,000 Sanford, a six-furlong sprint for juveniles at Saratoga Race Course.

Trained by Brad Cox, the Uncle Mo bay entered from a prominent three-quarter length debut win in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special weight on June 19 at Churchill Downs.

On Thursday’s opening card, the Eddie Kenneally-trained Churchill debut winner Just Cindy captured the Schuylerville for 2-year-old fillies as Kentucky horsemen get off to a fast start at the elite Saratoga meet.

Mo Strike exited post 6 under returning rider Florent Geroux in the 12-horse Sanford field and was again hustled into the midst of a sharp early pace as Curly Jack marked the opening quarter-mile in 22.59 seconds and the half-mile in 45.94 with Andiamo a Firenze in close attendance to their outside.

Curly Jack and Mo Strike battled through the turn with Andiamo a Firenze looming large to their outside before advancing into a narrow lead at the stretch call. The Jairo Rendon-piloted Great Navigator made strides along the rail out of the turn and was in need of racing room as Curly Jack persevered to the inside of Mo Strike and Andiamo a Firenze.

Mo Strike finally put away his rivals inside the final sixteenth and powered away to a 3 1/2-length score in a final time of 1:11.35 over the fast main track. Great Navigator, angled wide for racing room, found another gear once clear and reeled in Andiamo a Firenze to earn place honors by a head.

Forte, the 7-5 mutuel favorite, finished fourth followed by Curly Jack, Major Dude, Roman Giant, Prove Right, Valenzan Day, Boppy O, I’m Wide Awake and Puttheblameonme.

Cox said he was pleased with how Mo Strike put away the impressive debut winner Andiamo a Firenze, a three-quarter brother to Grade 1-winner Firenze Fire.

“He definitely showed some ability and fought off a very good horse at the eighth-pole,” said Cox. “That horse ran a big figure in his race at Belmont, I believe, and when Florent really asked him at the eighth-pole, he was able to get away.”

Cox said the debut score engineered from the outermost post 10 proved beneficial for Mo Strike against a double-digit Sanford field.

“He did run against a larger group at Churchill, he broke from the outside and did get a good trip that day, but obviously had to fight off some horses that day as well. It worked out well and he got a lot of experience and overcame some things.” Cox said.

Geroux said he felt comfortable being forwardly placed to the outside of Curly Jack and to the inside of Andiamo a Firenze.

“He broke super sharp. From there, I was in the clear right from the beginning,” Geroux said. “I let the inside horse go. I kept an eye on the nine [Andiamo a Firenze]. We were able to slow it down a little bit the second quarter and when the horse came to me down the lane, my horse was able to give me another gear and fight all the way to the wire. I was very pleased with his effort. The last eighth of a mile, I felt the race was pretty much over and he was just keeping along nicely. If someone else was going to attack me, I felt I had another gear to fight them down.”

Cox said he will now consider giving Mo Strike a potential start in the Grade 2, $200,000 Saratoga Special on August 13, but noted the Grade 1, $300,000 Hopeful on September 5 is more likely.

“We’ll watch him – it would probably be a lot to ask him [to race] in the Special and the Hopeful, but we’ll let him determine our plans, and once again how he comes out of it, and go from there,” Cox said. “I think the Hopeful is more likely being he’s an Uncle Mo, it’s a Grade 1, and it would take a lot of pressure off. He’s a nice colt.”

Bred in Kentucky by Blue Heaven Farm and Ashford Stud, Mo Strike, out of the Smart Strike mare Featherbed, is a half-brother to 2014 Illinois Derby-winner Dynamic Impact.

The $325,000 OBS Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training purchase banked $96,250 in victory. He returned $18.40 for a $2 win bet.

Live racing resumes on Sunday at Saratoga with a 10-race card, featuring the Grade 3, $175,000 Quick Call presented by the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation in Race 8. First post is 1:05 p.m. Eastern.

Jennie Rees is a communications and advocacy specialist in the horse industry who spent 32 years covering horse racing for The (Louisville) Courier-Journal before taking a corporate buyout. In addition to handling communications for the Kentucky HBPA, Rees is Kentucky Downs’ publicity director, manages in-season racing publicity for Ellis Park and serves as a consultant to the National HBPA. Other projects include the Preakness Stakes, Indiana Grand’s Indiana Derby Week and work for various HBPA affiliates and horsemen’s associations.