The Road to the Derby makes stops in three locales this Saturday with the Grade II Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Cal., the Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs in Tampa, Fla., and the Grade III Withers Stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack in Jamaica, NY. Each of these races offers a purse of $200,000 and a points payout of 10-4-2-1 to the top four finishers under the new Road to the Kentucky Derby point system.
The Robert B. Lewis stakes drew a short field of only four runners. The race has never seen a field this short in its 74 previous editions. Although he’s only a maiden winner, Bob Baffert’s Flashback will likely go off as the post-time favorite in the 1 1/16 mile route. It’s not new for Baffert to send a maiden winner into stakes company like this and come out a winner, e.g., The Factor, Bodemeister. In his debut race at Betfair Hollywood Park in Dec., Flashback took out a field of nine competitors going seven-furlongs in a quick 1:23. He’s trained steadily since and has already made the list on several handicappers’ top Kentucky Derby contenders.
In addition to taking on his much more experienced stablemate, Den’s Legacy, Flashback will face He’s Had Enough, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up. The connections of last year’s Robert B. Lewis and Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another, have teamed again with an eye on a repeat victory courtesy of He’s Had Enough. Although he has only a maiden victory, his stakes experience should give him an advantage.
On the opposite side of the map, a field of 10 will attempt the Sam F. Davis Stakes’ 1 1/16 miles at Tampa Bay Downs. Several in this field exit the Jan. 12 Pasco Stakes over this Tampa Bay track, including the Pasco winner Dynamic Sky. Dynamic Sky is co-entered with maiden winner Northern Lion at a morning line of 9-5. Dynamic Sky has two wins in five lifetime starts, but has never run in anything other than a stakes race. That sort of class will be hard to beat.
Trainer Eddie Plesa, who won last week’s Holy Bull with Itsmyluckyday, will send out Speak Logistics. This colt will make his three-year-old debut, having finished seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in his last start. Plesa showed us last week that he knows how to get an overlooked colt at the forefront of the Kentucky Derby chatter, so don’t overlook Speak Logistics.
Somewhere in the middle of these two Derby Trail locales is Aqueduct Racetrack in New York where the 1 1/16 mile Withers Stakes will offer a chance at Kentucky Derby points for eight contestants. Todd Pletcher’s maiden winner, Revolutionary, is the 3-5 morning-line favorite. Although it took Revolutionary four attempts to break his maiden, he did it impressively over the Aqueduct inner dirt, winning by 8 ½ lengths and earning a 103 Brisnet speed figure.
Darley Stables and trainer Kiaran McLaughlin have the co-entered 7-2 second choice in the field, Long River and Valid. Long River finished fourth in Aqueduct’s Grade II Jerome (Jan. 5) in his last start and broke his maiden over this track. Valid faced Jerome winner Vyjack in his first race and was beaten by him by over 12 lengths. Valid shipped to Laurel Park and dropped in class to break his maiden New Year’s Eve.
A pair of longshots worthy of watching in this field is 8-1 Siete de Oros and 15-1 Amerigo Vespucci. Both come out of the Jerome Stakes and have some stakes and allowance experience on their resumes. Siete de Oros finished second by a head in the Jerome and Amerigo Vespucci was three lengths behind him in third. Both have two wins in five starts. Amerigo Vespucci has never finished off the board and will add blinkers.
The Robert B. Lewis is the 4th race on the Santa Anita card with a scheduled post time of 5:03 p.m. EST. The Sam F. Davis is the 11th race on the Tampa Bay Downs card with a scheduled post time of 5:23 p.m. EST and the Withers Stakes is the 9th on the Aqueduct card with a scheduled post time of 4:18 p.m. EST. All races can be seen on HRTV and TVG. Past performances for these races are being offered free from Brisnet .