Saturday, February 4, 2012

Robert B. Lewis Stakes Racing Roundup

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert could tie the record for the trainer with the most wins in the $200,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G2) when he sends Liaison to the starting gate today as the 9-5 morning line favorite of the marquee race which is the sixth race on the 10-race card at Santa Anita Park.

Charlie Whittingham and Ron McAnally currently hold the record at four wins each. Baffert previously won the prestigious stakes with Pioneerof The Nile (2009), Domestic Dispute (2003) and General Challenge (1999).

Liaison comes into the race with three straight wins including victories in the CashCall Futurity Stakes (G1) and the Real Quiet Stakes. Despite the fact that he has not raced since the CashCall, Liaison has been working out good at Santa Anita and he’s even fired two bullet works earlier this month. Regular rider Rafael Bejarano retains the mount and I look for Liaison to be very competitive.

Baffert also has another chance at winning with the Westrock Stables entry of Sky Kingdom (6-1). I profiled him in my 2012 Kentucky Derby Outlook and I’m anxious to see how well he runs today.

Sky Kingdom definitely has the breeding to be a classic champion but so far he has not lived up to my expectations. One never knows if these young colts will live up to their breeding and only time will tell if Sky Kingdom has any classic potential.

He easily won his 3-year-old debut last month in an allowance race at Santa Anita Park, traveling 8½-furlongs in 1:44.72. Sky Kingdom stalked the pace before taking the lead in the stretch, while under a long hold by jockey Martin Garcia, to pull away and win by 4½-lengths. The fractional times for that race were almost identical to the CashCall, however, Sky Kingdom trailed in that race near the back of the "herd" and finished in fourth-place.

Garcia has ridden Sky Kingdom to victory twice before and he retains the mount for today’s race. A bullet work out on January 27 could indicate that Sky Kingdom is ready to run another good race and I look for him to be very competitive.

Isn’t He Clever (6-1) is a fast colt and I also look for him to be competitive. Isn’t He Clever has never been out of the money in four starts and he comes into the race with a second–place finish in the Clever Trevor Stakes at Remington Park and a first-place, 11¾-length romp in the Riley Allison Futurity Stakes at Sunland Park.

His time of 1:15.10 in the Riley Allison Futurity is racehorse time and right on par with Algorithms who is another colt I think highly of and profiled in my Derby outlook.

Isn’t He Clever has never ran in a route race but he shouldn’t have any problem carrying his speed to 8½-furlongs with the influence of Kentucky Derby winner Smarty Jones as his sire and Deputy Minister as the damsire.

Isn’t He Clever picks up jockey Corey Nakatani who’s been riding pretty good and a bullet work out January 27 could have him primed to run a good race.

Rousing Sermon (5-2) and Chips All In (6-1) have to be given respect and, perhaps, adds more drama to what appears to be a very contentious Robert B. Lewis Stakes.

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