When all four contenders in the Feb. 4 $196,000 Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis Stakes turned in the stretch at Santa Anita, Bob Baffert had the rare luxury of winning the race before the race was even finished.
In a contest that boiled down to the battle of four Bob Baffert trainees, it was Grade 3 Sham Stakes runner-up Newgate who prevailed to win over Hard to Figure who was second.
The victory comes during a critical time for Baffert, who has been immersed in a legal battle with Churchill Downs Inc. since the disqualification of Medina Spirit from the 2020 Kentucky Derby. Following the Medina Spirit revelation, Churchill handed a 2-year ban to Baffert, which he is contesting in court. Although the Robert B. Lewis, a traditional Santa Anita Park Kentucky Derby prep race, offered 40 Derby points to the top four finishers on a 20-8-6-4-2 scale, none of this year’s participants earned a single point toward the first Saturday in May due to that ban.
Newgate, the even-money favorite, was last of the four through the early stages as Arabian Lion wrested command from Hard to Figure. Behind fractions of :23.87 and :47.76, Newgate remained under a snug hold from Frankie Dettori until the rider let him out a notch around the far turn. Circling the field, Newgate cruised into contention and dueled a determined Hard to Figure the length of the stretch.
Newgate eventually got the better of Hard to Figure, pulling ahead by a neck under the wire in a final time of 1:43.11 for 1 1/16 miles on a fast track. He returned $4 from a $2 win ticket.
“Frankie Dettori has been teaching him how to just sit back, relax, and come with a punch and that’s what he did today,” Baffert said of Newgate after the race. “Before when we were sending him, he wasn’t finishing. I wasn’t sure how far he wanted to go. The trainer landed a record 11th Robert B. Lewis win on Saturday.
Hard to Figure, making his first start around two turns, was 1 3/4 lengths clear of Worcester in third. Highly regarded Arabian Lion faded to fourth and last.
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