April 2016 Issue - page 8

Page 8
April 2016
PENNSYLVANIA EQUESTRIAN
By Terry Conway
Stuart Grant likes to tell
folks that he spent time around
horses growing up in Brooklyn,
N. Y. Thing is, the horses all had
cops on their backs.
Grant is the proud breeder of
Pennsylvania-bred colt Mor Spirit
who was born at Derry Meeting
Farm. The dark bay colt is con-
sidered one of the top West Coast
contenders for the Kentucky Der-
by. Mor Spirit made his 3-year-
old debut with an impressive win
in the $150,000 Robert B. Lewis
Stakes (Grade-3) at Santa Anita
on Feb. 6. The victory stamped
the colt as the dominant 3-year-
old in the barn of Hall of Fame
trainer Bob Baffert.
In the $400,000 San Felipe
Stakes (Grade-2) on March 12,
Mor Spirit uncorked his patent-
ed late run, closing strongly in
mid-stretch, but couldn't quite get
to Danzing Candy who won by
two lengths. Mor Spirit earned
20 Derby points to give the colt a
total of 44 which should put him
into the starting gate at Churchill
Downs on May 7.
“I’m very happy, because
he was way too keen in the early
part of the race," said jockey
Gary Stevens. “He was super
sharp. As I was coming into the
lane, I knew I wasn’t going to
catch the winner, but I knew
we had to get some (Kentucky
Derby) points. I like where we’re
sitting for the Santa Anita Derby.
I lost a battle today, but I like our
position. He’ll settle a little better
for me in the Santa Anita Derby."
Mor Spirit winning the $150,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa
Anita Park on Feb. 6.
Photo courtesy of Santa Anita
PA-Bred Mor Spirit a Top West Coast Derby Contender
“I had to kind of sit and
wait and Kent (Desormeaux on
Exaggerator) made his move and
I just followed him through. Mor
Spirit got a lot of dirt yesterday,
traffic, came inside of horses,
then moved out, galloped on
pretty good the last 16th of a
mile and galloped out great. He
probably got more out of (the San
Felipe) than he has in all of his
races combined up to that point,
as far as education and fitness. I
felt a lot like I did when I got beat
on Silver Charm by Free House
in the (1997) Santa Anita Derby.
(Silver Charm won the 1997
Kentucky Derby).
Baffert was also pleased with
Mor Spirit's performance over 1
1/16 miles at Santa Anita. Next
up: the Santa Anita Derby run at
1 1/8 miles on April 9. The Ken-
tucky Derby is 1 1/4 miles.
“He ran well, the horse that
won is a pretty good horse," Baf-
fert said. "I wanted to run first,
second or third. He’s coming on.
A mile and an eighth will be more
to his liking, but he got a lot out
of it today. I’m happy with the
way he went. I think with every
start, we're learning more about
Mor Spirit and figuring out what
he wants to do.”
The colt is owned by Mi-
chael Lund Petersen, a noted
businessman from Demark who
brought Pandora Jewelry to the
United States. Running low to
the ground with long, efficient
strides, Mor Spirit is a son of Es-
kendereya who was the anticipat-
ed favorite for the 2010 Kentucky
Derby before a swelling in his
left front leg knocked him out of
the race. Eskendereya was sired
by Giant's Causeway, who leads
all active sires in North America.
"He reminds me a lot of his
sire, a big, strong horse," Baffert
said. "He has a lot of tactical
speed but you can't let him use it
too early. We're teaching him to
sit and wait. He's an impressive
horse and beautifully made. He’s
got a huge stride and beautiful
action. He'll be best going a mile
and an eighth and further.”
Mor Spirit is a ridgling, a
horse that has an undescended
testicle. A sharp maiden winner
at Santa Anita four starts back,
Mor Spirit concluded his juvenile
campaign by finishing second
in the Kentucky Jockey Club
(Grade-2) at Churchill Downs on
a muddy track. Then he posted an
easy victory of nearly five lengths
in the Los Alamitos Futurity
(Grade-1) when he delivered a
powerful rally late to defeat high-
ly regarded stablemate Toews on
Ice on December 19. In the Rob-
ert B. Lewis Stakes, Mor Spirit
sat third for most of the race. But
when Stevens shook the reins at
Mor Spirit leaving the furlong
pole, the colt pricked his ears and
roared through the deep stretch to
win handily by 1 1/2 lengths.
Derry Meeting Farm
Located in the rolling hills of
Cochranville, Pa., Marshall and
Bettina Jenney's Derry Meeting
Farm will be forever etched in the
annals of thoroughbred breeding
as the birthplace of two of the
world’s most influential sires,
Danzig and Storm Cat. Over
the past four decades, scores of
George Strawbridge Jr.'s top-
flight colts and fillies foaled at the
farm went on to win prestigious
stakes races in the U. S. and Eu-
rope, with a number of his horses
earning champion honors as well.
A frisky dark bay colt arrived
at the farm in the early morning
hours of April 1, 2013. Bred by
Grant's Elkstone Group, LLC, Mor
Spirit is out of the graded stakes
placed Dixie Union mare I’m a
Dixie Girl, who Grant owns. The
colt's pedigree is a Seattle Slew-line
breeding coupled with a Northern
Dancer-line breeding. Derry Meet-
ing's longtime farm manager Bobby
Goodyear helped deliver the foal.
"You could see his athlet-
icism, even at that early age,"
Goodyear said. "Horses like him
are why you're in this game and
why you get up each morning. In
his races he seems to like a target
to run at. Then you see him finish-
ing up very strong, easily passing
other nice colts. To see him run
the Derby would be very special."
As part of his young horse
development program, Grant
ships his mares and their foals
to Bev Grovert's Windham Hill
Farm where foals are weaned and
the prepping begins for yearling
sales. Grant, who also owns Cam-
den Training Center in South Car-
olina, has an interest in Grovert's
350-acre Paris., Ky. farm. Mor
Spirit showed up at Windham
Hill 17 days after his birth.
"He was a very forward
thinking colt, very confident, had
his own opinion of what the world
should be," said Grovert. "We turn
our horses out at night and I go out
with them. He was an absolute joy
to watch-- fluid, balanced, great
motion. He was contained energy
until he hit the paddock. He would
rear up and then take off so effort-
less and efficient as he galloped
across the field. He moved like
a cat, a cougar. He knew he was
something and we knew it too."
Prior to working with thor-
oughbreds, Grovert trained hunt-
ers and jumpers. She also raises
champion Australian Shepherd
show dogs.
"We knew he was quite preco-
cious and I begged Stuart to keep
him," Grovert continued. "But if
he did who knows if the colt would
have gotten the same experience
as being in Baffert's barn. How
his team reads a young horse and
manages them. They are very good
at it. Going to Baffert allowed Mor
Spirit to be a Derby-quality horse."
One of Pennsylvania's top
breeders over the past several
years, most of the Grant's Elk-
stone Group's colts and fillies go
to the top sales auctions. Grant
purchased Mor Spirit's dam Im a
Dixie Girl out of the 2010 Keene-
land November Breeding Stock
sale for $75,000.
"I wished I could have
foreseen that Mor Spirit would
be a great racehorse," Grant said
with a laugh. "He looked like he
had some potential, but he wasn't
growing mentally as much as he
was physically. He's the one that
got away."
Grant is co-founder and
managing director of the Wilm-
ington, Delaware law firm Grant
and Eisenhofer. He and his wife
Suzanne endowed an Equine
Studies Program in the College of
Agriculture and Natural Resourc-
es (CANR) at the University of
Delaware.
"We always thought highly
of him, but he was always full
of himself," Grant related. "The
morning of the Fasig Tipton July
sale he walloped the stall and
came up dead lame. Kicking the
stall was pretty typical of him.
We scratched him from the sale
and had to wait until their Oc-
tober sale. We thought he could
bring $150,000 to $200,000. But
he only brought $85,000 and I
said goodbye."
Five months down the road
Mor Spirit was entered in the
Fasig sale for 2-year olds in train-
ing at Gulfstream Park. Petersen,
in partnership with Bernard Schip-
pa, paid $650,000 for the colt.
"He had grown and matured
quite noticeably and breezed a 10.1
there which sparked a lot interest,"
Grant said. "At the time I thought
the sale price was high, but it turns
out they got quite a bargain."
C-Dog Farm
Grant had kept his string of
broodmares at Derry Meeting for
four years when Bettina Jenney
decided to retire from the breed-
ing and boarding business. The
farm was sold in 2014.
"I looked in Chester County
but I couldn't find a property I re-
ally liked," said Grant, who lives
in Greenville, Delaware. "I ended
up buying Cynthia Rickman's
farm in Chesapeake City, Md. I've
named it C-Dog Farm and I've put
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