Mr. Mox
Two-year-old Mr. Mox won at first asking at Pimlico. Photo Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club.

Jamie Ness owned-and-trained 2-year-old gelding Mr. Mox, by first-year sire Divining Rod, held on for a determined, front-running neck triumph in his career debut Sunday at Pimlico Race Course.

Ridden by Jaime Rodriguez, Mr. Mox ($10.20) ran five furlongs in 58.28 seconds over a fast main track surrounded by late-running stablemates Buff Money and Slaats, both from leading Maryland trainer Claudio Gonzalez, in the $46,000 maiden special weight event.

“It really was a gutsy effort,” Ness said. “He ran like he’d been training. He trained like a horse that could win first out. He did everything right and showed a lot of talent in the mornings. You never know with a first-timer, but he ran to the way he had been training.”

Bred in Maryland by Mike and Josh Pons’s Country Life Farm and Mrs. Glennie Martin, Mr. Mox broke from Post 2 in a field of six and was nudged clear by Rodriguez, setting the pace under a light hold racing two wide tracked by Buff Hello and Slaats. Mr. Mox gained separation from his main rivals at Rodriguez’s urging, taking a three-length lead into the stretch and turning back the late charges.

Powerful Force, who fetched $300,000 at Fasig-Tipton’s Florida Select 2-year-olds in training sale March 31 at Gulfstream Park and was sent off as the 6-5 favorite, finished fourth.

“He’s one that has always trained well,” Ness said. “We’ve always been pretty high on this horse.”

Ness was patient in waiting to unveil Mr. Mox, out of the Wayne County mare Lady Krista who had been training steadily since early April at both Delaware Park and Parx. Ness, a career winner of more than 3,300 races, is currently the third-leading trainer at Pimlico’s extended Preakness Meet with 13 wins.

“We felt like he was a horse that could win first time, and if you win first time in May or even June there’s really nothing for them,” he said. “So, we took our time and if he didn’t win today, I knew he’d win pretty early. Now we can give him a little break and hopefully the winner’s race will come a little bit later in the summer.”

Mr. Mox is the second winner for Divining Rod and first locally, following Illinois-bred Carnaval Conquest July 6 at FanDuel Sportsbook and Horse Racing in Collinsville, Ill. Mr. Mox’s win came over the same track where Divining Rod ran third to eventual Triple Crown champion American Pharoah in the 2015 Preakness Stakes (G1).

Divining Rod finished third or better in 14 of 17 career starts with five wins and $882,604 in purse earnings. His stakes wins came in the 2017 Polynesian at Laurel Park and 2015 Lexington (G3) at Keeneland. In addition to the Preakness, he placed in six other graded-stakes including a second in the 2016 Cigar Mile (G1).

“It’s his first crop. I saw Mr. Pons a about a month or six weeks ago at the races and I told him, ‘Listen, I’ve got a Divining Rod and I don’t know if any of your others ones can run, but this one can really run,” Ness said. “He was quite encouraged by that.”