Named after the owner of Kentucky Derby winners Silver Charm and Charismatic, the Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis is set for Sunday at Santa Anita. It’s an early-season prep race on the road to the Kentucky Derby, and one trainer has won it far more than any other.
Bob Baffert has won this race nine times since 1999 and six times since 2013. That includes the last three renewals won by Medina Spirit, Thousand Words and Mucho Gusto. He’s got a pair in this year’s race, and they’ll likely take most of the betting money.
Baffert’s entries in the Robert B. Lewis
No. 1 Messier was hammered down to 1-2 odds in the Grade 2 Los Al Futurity back in December. He ran well but was likely too close to a hot pace that day and got run down by long shot Slow Down Andy. Prior to that race, he’d won two in a row, including the Grade 3 Bob Hope at Del Mar. Messier is working well, has attracted Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez and looks like the one to beat.
The most logical alternative may not be much of a bigger price. That’s No. 4 Wharton, who won his debut on New Year’s Eve in impressive fashion. He cruised home clear by more than five lengths that day and is bred to improve with experience and distance.
Are there any logical alternatives to look at in this race?
No. 5 Happy Jack lit up the tote board in his debut when he rallied from off the pace to win at odds of 24-1. It’s often not easy for first-time starters to relax, rate and pass horses late. That’s what he did, though, and he’s another bred to improve with added ground. He’s by Preakness winner Oxbow and out of a mare by Tapit, one of the best stamina influences in the game.
Happy Jack needs to take a big step forward, but there are things to like. With the two Baffert runners likely to take lots of money, he should also be a square price. In addition, there’s certainly plenty of early speed signed on to set up for his late kick.
I can’t advise spending a ton of money here. It’s a five-horse field, and the two Baffert trainees look logical (even though neither is eligible for Kentucky Derby points as of this writing). I’ll play small exactas that use Happy Jack with those two runners. If one of them doesn’t fire, exactas may pay fairly well.
- $3 exacta box: 5 with 1, 4 ($12)