The next stop on the Road to the Kentucky Derby is Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Cal. For Saturday’s Grade 3 $200,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes. A field of seven 3-year-olds will hit the track for the 1 1/16 mile route. The top four finishers will pick up points in Churchill Downs’ Road to the Kentucky Derby points system.
The Kentucky Derby points system replaced the graded stakes earnings system as the determiner of Kentucky Derby entrants. In the first phase, the Kentucky Derby Prep Season that concludes February 17, the top four finishers in 18 pre-determined races are awarded points of 10-4-2-1, respectively. In the first leg of phase two, the Championship Series, the top four finishers in 8 pre-determined races are awarded points of 50-20-10-5, respectively. In the second leg of the Championship Series, the top four finishers in the 8 pre-determined races receive points of 100-40-20-10, respectively.
The obvious choices in this edition of the Robert B. Lewis Stakes are the Bob Baffert’s Sham Stakes (G3) winner Midnight Hawk and John Sadler’s Cash Call Futurity (G1) runner-up Candy Boy. Midnight Hawk is undefeated in two career starts, winning both in wire-to-wire fashion. He picked up a 97 Brisnet speed figure in his Sham victory and broke his maiden with a 6 ¼-length margin over the field. He will be guided by Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith.
Unlike Midnight Hawk, Candy Boy brings some experience with him, having already raced five times in his short career. Candy Boy finished five lengths behind the eventual 2-Year-Old Champion, Shared Belief, in his last start, the Cash Call Futurity. He exhibits a running style that allows him to sit just off the pace and puts him in position to quickly pounce on the leaders. Hall of famer Gary Stevens will be in the irons.
As is always the case this time of the year, unnoticed horses emerge victorious in these early Kentucky Derby preps. One to consider in the Robert B. Lewis is Baffert’s other entry, Chitu. This son of Henny Hughs, out of an A.P. Indy mare, has never tried a route distance, but is undefeated in two lifetime starts. His work tab is riddled with bullet works, including two recent four-furlong works over the track, going a quick :46 and change in each. He’s also won both his races on the front-end. His early speed and his pedigree for longer distances may make him dangerous in this field.
Another horse likely to be overlooked is John Shirreffs’ Cool Samurai. This son of First Samurai has only raced twice, but finished first or second in each. Shirreffs has been working him at seven furlongs, which is generally a little farther than most other horses are worked, so that might lead one to believe that he’s building stamina. Shirreffs was able to keep the great mare Zenyatta healthy and on her game in every start of her 20-race career while most of her competition was retiring to motherhood, so you’d have to think that if he’s putting a horse in a Kentucky Derby points race, he’s ready to win.
The field from the rail out is: Candy Boy, Diamond Bachelor, Midnight Hawk, Home Run Kitten, Cool Samurai, El Nino Terrible, and Chitu. The race is the 8th on Santa Anita Park’s Saturday card with a scheduled post time of 7:00 EST. The race can be seen on HRTV and TVG. Click here for free PPs of the Saturday card courtesy of Brisnet.
Photo: Courtesy Santa Anita Park