Mo Strike Works for G1 Hopeful
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y.— Brad Cox didn’t win the Eclipse Award as North America’s leading trainer the past two years by settling for second, but he couldn’t have been more pleased with multiple Grade 1 winner Cyberknife’s runner-up effort in Saturday’s Grade 1, $1.25 million Runhappy Travers.
Cyberknife set a demanding pace for six furlongs in the 1 1/4-mile Travers before being overtaken by eventual winner and race favorite Epicenter leaving the far turn, then dug in and fended off both Zandon and Grade 1 Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike the length of the stretch to hold second by a nose.
“It was a super race. We don’t run second very often and we’re content, but I was fairly content with his performance,” Cox said. “There could be some what-ifs, but he had the one-hole. There was no one looking for the lead, and I thought [jockey] Florent [Geroux] gave him every opportunity to win. The winner sat right behind us on the rail and kind of got the same trip as us. I watch a lot of races and I could tell at the quarter pole we were in for a battle, and he fought on very, very well.
“I’m very proud of him,” he added. “He’s come a long, long way in a year. He was up here training last year and we didn’t know where he was going to end up or what kind of horse he was going to be. [Owner] Al Gold has been patient with him. It wasn’t the result we were looking for, but we cannot be disappointed in his effort. He fought very hard.”
Cox was pleased with the way Cyberknife exited the Travers, and he and Gold have begun discussions about what the plan is for the rest of the year including the Breeders’ Cup in November at Keeneland.
“He came out of it very good and looked fantastic this morning. I’m very happy with the way he looked,” Cox said. “Al Gold and I talked about it this morning. We may look at the Dirt Mile and the Breeders’ Cup Classic, as well. If we have a race in between, I don’t know what race it would be, if we feel like we need one.
“He’s been non-stop. He hasn’t missed any training at all since we’ve started with him,” he added. “We don’t feel like we have to have a race. We’ll kind of see how things play out over the next couple weeks and we ship him back to Kentucky in probably a week or so.”
Cox unveiled Jonathan Poulin, Westerberg, Mrs. John Magnier, Derrick Smith and Michael Tabor’s Verifying to kick off the 13-race Travers Day program, and the expensive son of 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify did not disappoint with a front-running 1 3/4-length triumph as the 3-5 favorite. The victory earned an 85 Beyer.
Out of the Repent mare Diva Delite, Verifying is a half-brother to Midnight Bisou, the 2019 Champion Older Mare who was retired in 2020 after winning 13 of 22 career starts and more than $7.4 million in purse earnings. Among her five Grade 1 wins was the 2019 Personal Ensign at Saratoga. Verifying fetched $775,000 as a yearling at Keeneland last September.
“He’s a good colt,” Cox said. “He looks the part. He was an expensive yearling, and he had been training the part. I guess the word was out. He was 3-5 and he performed like it. I think he’s going to stretch out. Ultimately that’s what we want him to do. He’s another one that will ship back to Kentucky in a week or so and we’ll start preparing him for possibly a stake race.
“You don’t bring them to Saratoga unless you like them. He gave us enough confidence back at Keeneland late spring and early summer to put him on a van and bring him up here,” he added. “He had put together a good string of works, worked weekly, and a couple of gate works, one on the main and one on the Oklahoma, and we felt like he was tight enough to make his first start and he performed well.”
Among the horses Cox worked Sunday was Nasser Bin Omairah’s Mo Strike, winner of the Grade 2 Sanford July 16 at Saratoga that is being pointed to the Grade 1, $300,000 Hopeful September 5 at the Spa. The undefeated son of champion Uncle Mo went five furlongs in 1:00.22 over the main track, ranking third of 25 horses.
Purchased for $325,000 out of the OBS Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training in April, Mo Strike debuted with a three-quarter-length victory June 19 at Churchill Downs, running 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:04.77. He won the six-furlong Sanford by 3 1/2 lengths at odds of 8-1 in 1:11.35 under Florent Geroux, who will ride back in the seven-furlong Hopeful.
“He’s good. He won the Sanford and he’s had plenty of time to recover from that. He’s had a good string of works here on the main track and I love what I see from him, physically and mentally,” Cox said. “He’s a very sharp horse. He’s 2-for-2. He’ll have to take a step forward, but I think he has taken a step forward from what I’ve seen from him physically. His breeze this morning was very good.
“He’s gotten it pretty much from the get-go, when we’ve asked him in his training,” he added. “He came out of a 2-year-old sale and they did a good job prepping him. Sometimes when these horses come out of the 2-year-old sales they’re a little over the top mentally, won’t relax or settle and do what you want or ask of them. He has. He’s all there in the mental part of it. Sometimes when you wind these horses up, you can’t unwind them. He’s been a horse that does everything very professionally.”
NYRA Press Office
Main photo: Cyberknife wins the Grade 1 Haskell (Bill Denver-EQUI-PHOTO)