Baffert-Trained Mourinho One to Watch on Derby Trail and Breeders’ Cup
The 2018 Breeders’ Cup is at Churchill Downs in November, but a rising star is making his move early on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. Monday holiday racing featured the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park, and Bob Baffert-trained Mourinho made an impressive mark while picking up 10 Derby points with a wire-to-wire 3 ¼ length victory.
“Bob said we’re the fastest horse in the race, so to get the lead and go from there,” said jockey Drayden Van Dyke, a Hot Springs native based in Southern California. “That worked out well for us. Threw his ears up and just coasted home.”
Mourinho, a son of 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, wore blinkers and appeared to stay focused. He now has two wins and two seconds in four career starts with earnings of more than $150,000.
“He broke well and was able to make the early lead. He looked like he had plenty left,” Baffert said. “We’re very encouraged. It’s that time of year when you start to get excited.”
Baffert had uncharacteristically failed to win any of the Oaklawn 3-year-olds stakes races last year and has never won the Smarty Jones. But Mourinho gave him a great shot at redemption, and his friend and trainer D. Wayne Lukas saddled him in his absence and Van Dyke rode him with ease and confidence as he stretched out his lead down the stretch. Mourinho finished the 1 mile race on a fast track in 1:37.25 and paid $3.20 to win as the 3-5 favorite. Second choice Combatant (8-5) was second and 8 lengths clear of Tap Daddy in third.
Monday’s Smarty Jones completed a trio of Derby preps with Instilled Regard winning the Lecomte at the Fair Grounds and Firenze Fire grinding home to victory in the Jerome at Aqueduct.
Watch for Mourinho in the Southwest Stakes Feb. 19 at Oaklawn Park as the early-year races start to take shape and determine this year’s Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup participants.