I’ll Have Another, the longest price on the board at odds of 43-1, easily won the Grade 2 $200,000 Robert B. Lewis stakes at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California. Sitting comfortably in second throughout the 1 1/16 mile race, Doug O’Neil’s I’ll Have Another made his move around the turn and overtook the lead from Isn’t He Clever going into the stretch. I’ll Have Another finished 2 ¾ lengths in front of Empire Way, who was another 2 ¾ lengths in front of Groovin’ Solo. Rousing Sermon was another 1 ¼ lengths back in fourth.
“He’s an incredibly talented colt and we decided to take a chance in here,” O’Neil said after the race. “We thought he could hit the board and we’d move forward, but he ran unbelievable.”
Making his fourth lifetime start and first attempt around two turns, the son of Flower Alley is now on the graded earnings board with his $120,000 paycheck. Previously ridden by jockey Julien Leparoux, I’ll Have Another finished sixth and was beaten 19 lengths in his last start, the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes.
Jockey Mario Gutierrez, who regularly rides in Canada, was aboard I’ll Have Another for Saturday’s win.
“This is my biggest win,” said Gutierrez. “It’s a great thrill.”
“He’s always trained fantastic, but we never saw this coming to be honest with you,” said O’Neil. “This is incredible. We’ll look at the Santa Anita Derby (Grade I, $750,000 at 1 1/8 miles on April 7) if all goes well.”
Bob Baffert's Liaison, the 3-2 post-time favorite, was inside I’ll Have Another throughout much of the race, but never fired and ultimately did not finish the race after clipping heels with Groovin’ Solo and losing his jockey going into the stretch. Jockey Rafael Bejarano took a tumble in the episode, but was unhurt and returned to ride in the next race.
“I had my hole when I saw two horses that split out,” said Bejarano. “I had plenty of room in between horses. When I asked my horse to go, he was coming little by little, but the horse on the outside (Groovin’ Solo) was lugging in a little bit. I started screaming to let him know I was there and he (Victor Espinoza) tried to correct his horse, but at the same time when he corrected his horse, he was just coming in too much. The horse on the inside (Isn’t He Clever) didn’t even give me a chance to check his horse because he was coming out too. At least the outside horse (Groovin’ Solo/Victor Espinoza) tried to correct himself but the other horse from the inside (Isn’t He Clever/Corey Nakatani) didn’t do that. He just kept going and was coming out little by little, but he didn’t even try to check his horse. That’s why it felt so tight and I clipped heels. I ended up clipping heels with Victor’s horse because Corey Nakatani’s horse was coming out and it was enough to push me out. Other than that, I feel good. I’m just a little sore.”
Jockey Victor Espinoza and Groovin’ Solo went on to finish third, but were disqualified and placed seventh.
“I thought the inside horse moved out,” Espinoza said. “I tried to help as much as I can. When another guy asks for help I move out as much as I can. There’s nothing else I can do. I think he ran great.”
I’ll have another paid $88.60, $35.80 and $12.00. Empire Way paid $11.80 and $6.20 and completed the $1 exacta that paid $399. Rousing Sermon, who was placed third after Groovin’ Solo’s disqualification, paid $3.40 and completed the $1 triple for $3,461. Isn’t He Clever completed the $1 superfecta that returned $18,544.20.
Photo: Courtesy Kentucky Derby