The Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita Park has become a key Southern California prep race on the path to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve and served as a springboard in 2012 for I’ll Have Another as he swept the Derby and Preakness Stakes.
Although technically a qualifying points race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, this race formerly known as the Santa Catalina Stakes will not officially award any Derby points in 2023 because all four entrants are trained by Bob Baffert. Churchill Downs Inc. banned Baffert from participating at its tracks through mid-2023 after Zedan Racing Stables’ Medina Spirit tested positive for a prohibited race-day medication after crossing the finish line first in the 2021 Kentucky Derby. Thus, Baffert’s 3-year-olds do not accrue points toward qualifying for the first jewel of the Triple Crown while under his care.
1. Arabian Lion (7-5 morning-line odds): Colt from family of unbeaten champion Personal Ensign made a nice first impression with a three-length romp last October on this main track and then ran a close second in November 2022 at Keeneland in a race that earned an eye-catching 104 Equibase Speed Figure. Subsequently finished last of five in the 1 1/16-mile Los Alamitos Futurity in his stakes debut, and needs to prove that race was an anomaly and not an indication that he’s better suited to sprinting. Strong workout Jan. 29 indicates he should be sharp for this test. Expect him to dictate the pace.
JOCKEY: John Velazquez; TRAINER: Bob Baffert
2. Newgate (8-5): An $850,000 purchase at the 2021 Keeneland September yearling sale, he’s run second in graded stakes in his last two starts, most recently finishing a neck behind stablemate Reincarnate in the Grade 3 Sham Stakes Jan. 8 at a mile on this track. The Sham was his fourth try without success in stakes competition after a debut maiden win and he has had his chances.
JOCKEY: Frankie Dettori; TRAINER: Bob Baffert
3. Worcester (9-5): Still seeking his first win after finishing fourth in his career debut Dec. 26, 2022, at Santa Anita and then running second, beaten by 1 ¼ lengths by highly regarded stablemate Hejazi, in a Jan. 15 maiden special weight race on this main track. After a pair of sprints, adding distance should bolster chances of this Empire Maker colt. Has a chance to post a mild upset like stablemate Reincarnate (also ridden by Juan Hernandez) did in Sham Stakes.
JOCKEY: Juan Hernandez; TRAINER: Bob Baffert
4. Hard to Figure (8-1): After a pair of third-place finishes, struck for his first career win in restricted Capote Stakes on Sept. 25, 2022, at Los Alamitos. He was rank early in the Grade 3 Bob Hope Stakes in November at Del Mar and faded late to finish last of five. Baffert is adding blinkers to help improve focus, but wonder if he might be rerouted elsewhere after a Feb. 1 half-mile workout.
JOCKEY: Ramon Vazquez; TRAINER: Bob Baffert
THE PICK: Arabian Lion
LONGSHOT: Hard to Figure
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