In 2007, the Santa Anita Derby (GI)/Kentucky Derby (GI) prep once known as the Santa Catalina Stakes was renamed the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (GIII) to honor one of the most beloved owners in the game of thoroughbred racing, who passed away the year before. The familiar green and yellow silks representing Lewis and his wife, Beverly, and created in homage to the pair’s alma mater, the University of Oregon, were worn by jockeys aboard some of the most accomplished runners of the past two decades, including dual classic winners Silver Charm and Charismatic (also the 1999 Horse of the Year), champions Serena’s Song, Orientate and Folklore, just to name a few.
The race, which is contested at 1 1/16 miles, has been run at varying distances over the years — from three furlongs (when it was for juveniles in 1940) to nine furlongs as recently at 2011. It’s been at the current distance since then.
The Robert B. Lewis was held for the first time in Santa Anita’s inaugural season as the Santa Catalina in 1935 and, since then, some pretty familiar names have had their photo taken after reaching the wire in front, including Sham and Ferdinand and, most recently, top sire Pioneerof the Nile and dual classic winner I’ll Have Another. A year ago, Lombo won the Lewis before finishing sixth in the San Felipe Stakes, causing his connections to realize the colt would likely have distance limitations and therefore curing any Derby fever they may have come down with after a win in this race.
Saturday’s weather in Arcadia is expected to be cool in the lower 60s and there’s a 100 percent chance of rain, at least through the morning. Though the rain is expected to taper off a bit by the afternoon, the main track will be wet and off, but how wet and how off remains to be seen.
Two-time Triple Crown-winning trainer Bob Baffert has saddled the winner of the Bob Lewis a record six times and while no active jockey has come close to winning it as many times as Bill Shoemaker and Laffit Pincay Jr., the two riders this year to have captured a previous Bob Lewis are Flavien Prat (Lombo, 2018) and Joel Rosario (Anthony’s Cross, 2011).
Here’s a closer look at the field:
Kid Cantina – this former claimer makes his stakes debut off a decent second in a $50,000 starter allowance over this track last out and also his first around two turns. Both trainer Librado Barocio and jockey Geovanni Franco make their first Bob Lewis appearances with this son of Richard’s Kid.
Magnificent McCool – makes his seventh start and his first since breaking his maiden by 3 ½ lengths at this distance over Santa Anita’a turf a month ago. The Phoenix Thoroughbreds-owned, $625,000 son of Giant’s Causeway may have a grass pedigree but is in good hands with a two-time Derby-winning trainer rolling the dice. Prat rides here.
Easy Shot – Calumet Farm’s former claimer, who is trained by Keith Desormeaux, was a troubled fifth in the Sham Stakes (GIII) last out but may have been in deep regardless. He is an $80,000 son of Trappe Shot making his first start at the distance. Rafael Bejarano returns to ride.
Gunmetal Gray – This son of Exchange Rate currently sits fifth on the Derby points list with a total of 14 thanks to his Sham Stakes win and second in the American Pharoah Stakes (GI) to champion Game Winner. He is a winner over this track and is in good hands with Hall of Famers Jerry Hollendorfer (trainer) and Mike Smith (jockey), both who surprisingly have never won this event.
Mucho Gusto – Michael Lund Petersen’s colt sits 12th on the Derby points list, tied with seven others, thanks to his second in the Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity (GI). This colt from the first crop of Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) winner Mucho Macho Man is from the powerful Baffert-trained army of sophomores whose connections have roses on the brain. Regular rider Joe Talamo, who has been picking up more mounts from the conditioner, would like to get this colt more points for the Run for the Roses.
Nolo Contesto – From the very powerful and popular Hronis Racing/John Sadler team, this $385,000 son of Pioneerof the Nile makes his first start against winners after breaking his maiden second-out last time here at a mile three weeks ago. Rosario, who has filled in well on the team for Victor Espinoza while he’s been injured list, is back looking for the colt’s first Derby points.