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Robert B. Lewis Picks Due Soon

As in by 3:40pm PST (6:40pm EST) today for Week 3 of the Derby Handicap. So far I have entries from:

  • snowbegantofall
  • thoughtsonracinglifeandmore
  • thecelestialwinchester
  • sinningincowboyboots
  • nicoledowland
  • iadoreunna
  • marroquin
  • jumpsandbumps
  • marioangel
  • n-e-body/horseracingfever
  • webuiltthepyramids

Send them in through this link.

Best of luck to everyone!

Midnight Hawk Heads Robert B. Lewis Field

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Week 3/10 of the Derby Handicap Contest: Submit your choice of horse up to 20 minutes through this link before the scheduled post time of 4:00pm PST for this race. Read the Contest tab for rules and more information.

In what looks to be a great race this year— I like for there to be 7-8 horses in a field balanced by a tepid favorite and several promising new guns— the Robert B. Lewis Stakes serves as a key prep race for the Santa Anita Derby on the path to the Kentucky Derby. Past winners include major upsetter I’ll Have Another, who taught me it’s best to really look at everyone!

$200,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes (II) - 3-Year-Olds. 1 1/16 miles on dirt at Santa Anita Park. Post Time: Saturday, February 8 at 4:00pm PST (7pm EST). 

[Post Position, Horse - Jockey, Impost, Trainer - Summary, Opinion in italics]

1) Candy Boy - Gary Stevens, 118 lbs, John Sadler - Improving with each race, the Candy Ride [ARG] colt held firmly to the place in the CashCall (I) won by Shared Belief and has already won at this distance. He has just one win in 5 starts, and has been well-beaten by other top western horses in other races (Shared Belief, Tap It Rich). His maiden break at Hollywood was very impressive and he should not be dismissed having been beaten by Shared Belief

2) Diamond Bachelor - Julien Leparoux, 118 lbs, Patrick Biancone - I’m always pretty gung-ho about War Fronts, and apart from being part of the “not a factor” crowd at the Breeders’ Cup, he’s done pretty well with 2 wins and a place. However, all 3 of those were on the grass. Many people have been touting Diamond’s great recent works on Santa Anita’s track, but I’m taking this entry with a serious grain of salt. I’m just not a fan of Leparoux on dirt not to mention this whole trying a great War Front turf horse on dirt thing has not gone well in the past.

3) Midnight Hawk - Mike Smith, 120 lbs, Bob Baffert - The first serious Midnight Lute colt to knock on Derby’s door this season, Midnight Hawk was a formidable winner of the 1-mile Sham Stakes (III) last out on this track after taking his debut handily, romping by 6 lengths. Likely to be the speed of the race and the likely favorite, Baffert-Pegram horses are always class, but I would have more confidence in him if he finished the Sham stronger than he did. He reminds me of Fed Biz at this stage, fast horse that becomes very vulnerable past 7-8 furlongs.

4) Home Run Kitten - Joe Talamo, 118 lbs, David Hofmans - Another year, another batch of Kittens trying to make dirt work out for them! Boasting 2 starts on turf with a game win last out going 6 1/2 over Santa Anita’s green. Home Run Kitten faces an uphill battle jumping into graded stakes company on dirt while stretching out.

5) Cool Samurai - Corey Nakatani, 118 lbs, John Shirreffs - The Zenyatta connections make a go for the Derby with this son of First Samurai, who broke his maiden back in December going a mile here at Santa Anita over The Admiral, attacking late into a fast pace. Likely to be a key factor in the event of a burning early pace, he’s been working well going long and has yet to have a truly dynamite trip that defines his ability. I reckon he’s better off going longer than this and will be better next out, but it’s promising to see John Shirreffs send out a young one here, especially while boasting a 50% in-the-money finish ratio at Santa Anita.

6) El Nino Terrible - Edwin Maldonado, 118 lbs, Peter Miller - A one-time winner at this distance with 3 total career starts, the Malibu Moon colt exits a wire-to-wire effort last out at this track, and has one breeze since that January 17 race, making him the quickest turn-around of the field. He’ll likely try to break from the outside straight to the front again, but will face Midnight Hawk for that lead.

7) Chitu - Martin Garcia, 118 lbs, Bob Baffert - The “other” Baffert horse, the Henny Huges colt Chitu is 2-for-2 going 6 furlongs and looks to be ready for the class challenge as a horse who leads or marches behind the leaders. A speedball worthy of the challenge, Chitu’s pedigree couples speed with distance-going with A.P. Indy as his damsire. Nearly all of his recent works have been bullet moves, but he will have to break fast from the outside in his first time at a route and in graded company.

Top 3 Picks in Order:

1) Candy Boy

2) Chitu

3) Cool Samurai

While Midnight Hawk has a very fair shot at prevailing as the morning line favorite, I don’t think he was dominant enough or will have that much of an edge in Saturday’s race to distract me from my real top 3. Candy Boy looks like he has learned quite a bit with each race, and I’m totally okay with that green 2nd in his only dirt start at Santa Anita, as he finished well ahead of the rest of the field and got going well late and looks like he could be a very classy horse… be it on Saturday or at a later date. He ran beautifully from behind despite getting tepid fractions, and I think he could be special. Chitu impressed me physically and I liked his last race where he looked like he still had something left in reserve and made a strong stretch drive… I like him better than his stablemate. Cool Samurai I like only slightly less than Chitu, and chiefly from a pace perspective as this race may very well be full of early speed— that is, if people are interested in chasing Midnight Hawk. If they aren’t, he might be in trouble.

Value Pick: Cool Samurai (6-1 or better) could be overlooked as a closer in a souped-up field with big names.

Contest Wager: Candy Boy

Flashback wins

As expected as the heavy 1-2 favorite in the pathetically tiny Robert B. Lewis field. Not the best performance of the day either, and I’m glad I decided to wait until after this weekend to update my Derby Top 10. Second went to Den’s Legacy and third to He’s Had Enough.

WE ACTUALLY HAD NO TRIFECTA WINNER IN THE DERBY HANDICAP WHAT! I’ll update the leaderboard later tonight since I have to bring my brother out to get dinner, but the top three so far:

1st - Jumpsandbumps, who got the exacta for this race and leads with 22 points.

2nd - Victoriagebo, who got in the game this week and picked the winner and third place for 6 points.

3rd - A three-way tie with 5 points among Behindthecounterinasmalltown, Sinningincowboyboots, and Thecelestialwinchester.


Mas Importante note!: We are taking a two week long break due to a lull/poor scheduling in the official prep races so Round 3 will be held on February 23 with the Risen Star Stakes (II)! I’ll make a bunch of reminders when the contest returns but mark your calendars!

I wonder if we’ll get our first trifecta tomorrow

Derby Handicappers, be sure to submit those picks by 1:03pm PST (one hour before post time) on Saturday for the Robert B. Lewis! FOR GOD’S SAKE THERE ARE ONLY 4 HORSES. Submission form here, or send me an ask or an email.

I’ve already messaged those who have submitted, except creaturelover who had a closed ask box… I GOT YOURS TOO, CREATURELOVER!

Best of luck to everypony.

It’s Baffert vs. O’Neill in Robert B. Lewis Stakes

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***DERBY HANDICAP CONTEST Week 2 of 10! Please submit your top 3 picks IN ORDER OF FINISH through this submission form (easiest and quickest method), via Tumblr message, or email. You have until 1 hour before the scheduled post time noted below to submit or edit your picks. See the Contest Tab for details.

When I first loaded up the entry list for this race, I assumed my iPod’s wifi connection was pooping out and didn’t load everything. *Refresh*. Oh. Well this kind of sucks… WHY DO WE ONLY HAVE FOUR HORSES RUNNING? Further evidence that the Cali circuit sucks for Derby hopefuls right about now. Two horses storm in from Baffert’s barn against last year’s winning trainer Doug O’Neill, who’s hoping to score this race again with He’s Had Enough.

Weather looks picture-perfect at Santa Anita, so be ready for a fast track.

$200,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes (II) - 3-Year-Olds. 1 1/16 miles on dirt at Santa Anita. Post Time: Saturday, February 2 at 2:03pm PST.

[Post Position, Horse - Jockey, Impost, Trainer - Summary, Opinion in italics]

1) Little Jerry - Tyler Baze, 118 lbs, Richard Baltas - The Candy Ride [ARG] colt has not made an appearance since his 8th in the CashCall (I), where he was off slow and made no late rally which was expected of him. This will be his first dirt start with no recorded works over it. I liked Little Jerry back in the CashCall, which can probably be excused. He defeated a good colt in Curly Top in his maiden where he closed very fast over this stretch of ground and gets Baze back for this race. Should he likely decide to close in, he may take advantage of the pace if it’s fast.

2) Flashback - Julien Leparoux, 118 lbs, Bob Baffert - The Tapit star and full brother to G1 winner Zazu is apt to be favored despite just having run one winning race and will be making his first dirt start and his first route here. He stretches out a furlong and a half here after blitzing some bullets in his works on the Santa Anita dirt. Another good stalking trip and he could prevail despite his inexperience.

3) Den’s Legacy - Garrett Gomez, 120 lbs, Bob Baffert - The lone graded stakes winner of the field is this Medaglia d’Oro colt, who looks like he can do just about anything that is asked of him. He is the most experienced of the bunch, has some nice bullet moves, and totes Gomez  yet will very likely be overlooked again.

4) He’s Had Enough - Mario Gutierrez, 118 lbs, Doug O’Neill - The Tapit colt made headlines when he gave undefeated Shanghai Bobby a big scare in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, also on this track at this distance. He had a poor race last out when 5th in the CashCall (I), and after a string of longer works, looks to make his second dirt start here for points. I like O’Neill’s conditioning style and the clear break opportunity, but I’m not sure if a colt who is hit-and-miss and called lazy is going to want to compete.

Top Picks in Order:

1) Flashback

2) Den’s Legacy

3) Little Jerry

As no stranger to the equine world, I think Mr. Reddam should rethink how he names his horses… I truly believe from personal experiences that they love to live up to their name! On a serious note, this race is going to be determined by pace, and seeing what we’ve got, I don’t see anyone going much faster than :24 flat with an all-out scramble on the turn. I think Flashback has the right stuff to keep moving forward, and I’ll make it a Baffert double with Den’s Legacy coming in right behind him.

No Value Pick

Weekend Stake Tip: Game Face On Dude!

Clear weather and fast tracks set this weekend’s racing schedule off on a high note, but that didn’t stop certain heartbreaking results from happening. I ventured into my first foray at a pick 4 (I had only done one pick 3 before, which I’d won), and while I succeeded in lasting all four races, the payout was lower than my investment due to all but one of the lower-odds entries winning— lucky for me I had gambled free credit money, so I didn’t technically lose anything. BUT STILL!

It has become extraordinarily evident to me over time that Mike Smith has Chantal Sutherland figured out. Blame part of his genius on riding closers, part of it on her using all the tricks he’s taught her. Nevertheless, there was little fear figuring out the winner of Sunday’s San Antonio Stakes (II) at Santa Anita, as Breeders’ Cup Classic (I) runner-up Game On Dude would make his 2012 debut with Chantal against Mike Smith on recent San Pasqual (II) winner Uh Oh Bango. “He didn’t really break,” Sutherland would comment later to HRTV, as the gelding had to make an uncharacteristic hike from the back early as opposed to his usual immediate pace-setting. Once clear of the rear, “the Dude” began coasting easily along the backstretch, appearing to beg Chantal to give him his head… and she did, as the backstretch ran out, letting the Dude grab a two-length advantage which he kept widening and widening. Mike Smith got up for the show, but there was absolutely no beating Game On Dude that day. I think we’ve seen our first Horse of the Year contender already by the way he ran that 1 1/8 mile race so easily! Watch partial replay/interviews below (why aren’t tracks updating their videos lately?!)

The three-year-old Derby prep season continued with a few good, eye-opening races in the Withers (III) (won easily by Alpha… perhaps a little too easily suggesting he’s not being tested appropriately), the Sam F. Davis (III) (won by the talented maiden Battle Hardened, watch out for this guy!), and then the Round 2 race of the Derby Handicap Contest, the messy Robert B. Lewis (II) over at Santa Anita. I think it was too mucked-up to really count, honestly, as there was too much of a jumble at the end while allowing longshot winner I’ll Have Another to coast to an easy win. The excellent runners in the race— Liasion, Sky Kingdom, and Rousing Sermon— never got their running room arranged with Liasion losing rider Rafael Bejarano mid-stretch. Joel Rosario figured out Empire Way well enough to put him up for second, which I was very pleased to see, but still… I’m throwing this race out, as I’m sure others are doing as well. Watch replay

Liasion vs. Sermon Again in Robert B. Lewis

***DERBY HANDICAP CONTEST Week 2 of 12! - Email or message me your trifecta pick to earn points towards winning the Derby Handicap Contest. You have until 1 hour before post time to send/edit picks. See details in the Contest tab!*

Last year’s Robert B. Lewis Stakes (II) yielded the speedy Tapizar, so who can we expect to emerge (or continue to grow) as one of the west’s top Derby hopefuls this time? Bob Baffert has a very strong one-two punch with CashCall Futurity (I) winner Liasion [pictured] making a return along with the budding Sky Kingdom. Top trainer Jerry Hollendorfer will send out Rousing Sermon with the hope that the third time’s the charm in beating Liasion.

$200,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes (II) - 3-Year-Olds. 1 1/16 miles on dirt at Santa Anita Park. Post Time: Saturday, February 4 at 3:05pm PST.

[Post Position, Horse - Jockey, Impost, Trainer - Summary, Opinion in italics]

1) Isn’t He Clever - Corey Nakatani, 118 lbs, Henry Dominguez -A nice little Smarty Jones gelding occupies the rail, sporting a record of 3 wins in 4 starts (the other being a 2nd in a Remington Park stakes). He’ll be stretching out here with new rider Nakatani. While he’s been king of the hill so far in his career, will it last as he moves into more serious company? Don’t count him out, considering his last stakes win at Sunland Park was by a whopping 11 3/4 lengths over six furlongs!

2) Liasion - Rafael Bejarano, 123 lbs, Bob Baffert - Likely to be a favorite, Liasion sported bulldog tenacity and that Indian Charlie speed while winning the CashCall Futurity (I) last out over the same distance at Hollywood Park. He won by a mere neck over Rousing Sermon, but was game every step of the way and worked :48 over 4 furlongs handily over the dirt recently. He can do this distance and is well prepared, but can he afford to sacrifice a whole 5 pounds to Rousing Sermon coming out of stall 2 to boot?

3) Groovin’ Solo - Victor Espinoza, 118 lbs, Myung Kwon Cho -Pulled up in the CashCall due to a broken rein, we never got to see what this Bob and John colt can really do just yet. He nabbed a nice maiden special weight win at Santa Anita over a mile back in late December, so gusto this pace stalker has. Again, class is his biggest question, but he’s been topping recent workers with a 5-furlong blowout in :58 2/5 and appears to favor the Santa Anita dirt at this distance.

4) I’ll Have Another - Mario Gutierrez, 118 lbs, Doug O’Neill -A Flower Alley son backed by the powerful Arch influence on his dam’s side, he was 6th last out way back in September in the Hopeful (I) and before that was 2nd in the Best Pal (II). O’Neill’s been warming up to the big distances, with a recent 7-furlong work in 1:26 at Hollywood. An okay horse who hasn’t raced in a while, O’Neill is testing him out as a refreshed three-year-old who will hopefully improve significantly.

5) Sky Kingdom - Martin Garcia, 118 lbs, Bob Baffert -One of my keen favorites this year, this Empire Maker colt trades the injured Gomez for the experienced Martin Garcia in the irons after a “public workout” allowance win January 12 by 4 1/2 lengths. He had traffic trouble before then in the CashCall (I) where he placed fourth. Working 5 furlongs in :58 2/5 handily, he’s ready to step up his game after that confidence booster. With the dangerous Garcia-Baffert double, he could be game for an upset here.

6) Rousing Sermon - Joe Talamo, 118 lbs, Jerry Hollendorfer - No doubt this chestnut son of Lucky Pulpit will go off as the favorite. While he was second to Liasion in the CashCall (I), it was only by a short neck after he ran six wide around the turn. His works have been good, his trainer’s record here among the best, and his outside post is far better than Liasion’s spot at #2. Rousing Sermon looks very fit to win.

7) Empire Way - Joel Rosario, 118 lbs, Mike Harrington - Royal Delta’s gray brother, he was probably a short horse in the CashCall and Hollywood Prevue (I), where he finished 5th and 6th respectively, the former where he started his bid late after going six-wide around the turn. Worked a strong 6 furlongs in 1:14 4/5, Rosario is back at his Santa Anita stomping grounds and has no excuse to not bring this colt closer to the front with an outside stall.

8) Chips All In - Alonso Quinonez, 118 lbs, Jeff Mullins - With 5 starts all at different tracks, this shipper makes his second start at Santa Anita following his win there in the ungraded Eddie Logan— a turf race— by 1 1/2 lengths. He’s won on every surface already and is a game stretch runner. An odd entry and a big step up in class, nonetheless, he’ll be one to watch out of sheer curiosity.

Predicted Trifecta: 1) Rousing Sermon 2) Sky Kingdom 3) Liasion

Value Picks: Isn’t He Clever and Empire Way

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