The connections have now swept the first two West Coast preps for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands after Royal Mo cruised to a front-running score in the $150,000, Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita Park. Gormley took the first with a determined win in the Grade 3 Sham Stakes, also at Santa Anita, on Jan. 7.
Royal Mo, a son of Uncle Mo, ran fractions of :23.86, :47.37, and 1:11.50, then kicked away late under jockey Victor Espinoza to win by 3 1/2 lengths.
“I wanted to be on the outside, so I could track the leaders, but I didn’t want to take any chances [from the inside post], so I went to the front,” Espinoza said. “I knew there wasn’t going to be much speed. The fractions weren’t too quick, so I took advantage.”
Royal Mo finished off the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.48 and gave Uncle Mo his 25th stakes winner.
Maiden Irap pulled within a head through six furlongs, but was no match in the stretch. Irap did just outfinish favored Sheer Flattery, who lost significant ground with a wide trip in the first turn, to pick up his second runner-up finish in a graded stakes.
“I was very happy with how he ran,” Shirreffs said of Royal Mo. “[With] the fractions, having [Irap] outside of him, hooking him a little bit, so I think he showed a lot of character."
Grade 3 winner Term of Art came in third, followed by Dangerfield, to complete the order of finish.
“This is an amazing experience,” Jerry Moss said. “We haven’t had two horses in this position in a long time, and it’s fun. We’re going to keep those two horses separated as long as we can.
“I’ll have to talk to John, but I think we’ll go to Arkansas with one and stay here with the other. [Royal Mo] is almost 17 hands, but he’s still got some growing to do. ... We really don’t see anyone else coming up that scares us.”
Royal Mo broke his maiden at third asking in his previous start Nov. 27 at Del Mar, which was his two-turn debut. He finished second sprinting in his first two starts and now has $144,200 in earnings.
The colt was bred in Kentucky by Brandywine Farm, out of the Saint Ballado mare Royal Irish Lass. He was a $300,000 purchase at the Keeneland September yearling sale in 2015.