Derby Preps Primer: Robert B. Lewis Stakes

By Margaret Ransom

Santa Anita Park – Photo courtesy of santaanita.com

The race formerly known as the Santa Catalina Stakes was renamed the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3) in 2007 to honor one of the most beloved owners in thoroughbred racing.

The $100,000 Lewis at 1 1-16 miles is the second main prep on the Southern California road to the Kentucky Derby (G1) on May 2, with several others to follow before the Santa Anita Derby (G1) on April 4, a race that has produced many top Derby contenders.

The familiar green and yellow silks representing Lewis and his wife Beverly — created in homage to the couple’s alma mater, the University of Oregon — were carried by some of the most accomplished runners of the past three decades, including Derby and Preakness winners Silver Charm (1997) and Charismatic (1999), champions Serena’s Song, Orientate and Folklore.

A field of six 3-year-olds – half of whom have reached the winner’s circle with a stakes tally – are entered for Saturday’s Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita. Up for grabs are Derby points for the first four finishers on a 10-4-2-1 basis.

The Lewis, then the Santa Catalina, was held for the first time in Santa Anita’s inaugural season of 1935. Since then, some pretty familiar names have had their photo taken after reaching the wire in front, including Sham and Ferdinand, recently deceased top sire Pioneerof the Nile and Derby and Preakness winner I’ll Have Another. Other notable winners include champions Declan’s Moon and Artax, as well as Grade 1 winner Dortmund.

A year ago, Mucho Gusto won the Lewis and though he didn’t earn enough points to make the gate for the Kentucky Derby, he won a pair of Grade 3 stakes over the summer and then most recently captured the $3 million Pegasus World Cup (G1) at Gulfstream Park.

Hall of Famer Bob Baffert has saddled a record seven winners (1999, 2003, 2009, 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2019) and jockeys Bill Shoemaker and Laffit Pincay Jr. rode a record seven winners each. The race has been contested at various distances from seven to nine furlongs and once at three furlongs in 1940, when it was offered for 2-year-olds.

The weather outlook for Saturday’s race is calling for unseasonably warm highs in the low-80s. The main track is likely to be fast and the turf course firm as there’s been no rain in the area for weeks and none forecast for several days. The Lewis is the sixth race with a post time of 3 p.m. PT

The field, with jockeys and trainers:

Robert B. Lewis Stakes
PP Horse Jockey Trainer
1 Encoder Mike Smith John Sadler
2 Thousand Words Flavien Prat Bob Baffert
3 Tizamagician Victor Espinoza Richard Mandella
4 Royal Act Abel Cedillo Peter Eurton
5 High Velocity Joel Rosario Bob Baffert
6 Zimba Warrior Jose Valdivia Keith Desormeaux

 

Margaret Ransom
California native and lifelong horsewoman Margaret Ransom is a graduate of the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program. She got her start in racing working in the publicity departments at Calder Race Course and Hialeah Park, as well as in the racing office at Gulfstream Park in South Florida. She then spent six years in Lexington, KY, at BRISnet.com where she helped create and develop the company’s popular newsletters, Handicapper’s Edge and Bloodstock Journal.

After returning to California, she served six years as the Southern California news correspondent for BloodHorse, assisted in the publicity department at Santa Anita Park and and was a contributor to many other racing publications, including HorsePlayer Magazine and Trainer Magazine. She then spent seven years at HRTV and HRTV.com in various roles as researcher, programming assistant, producer and social media and marketing manager. She has also walked hots and groomed runners, worked the elite sales in Kentucky for top-class consignors and volunteers for several race horse retirement organizations, including CARMA.

Margaret’s very first Breeders’ Cup was at Hollywood Park in 1984 and she has attended more than half of the Breeders’ Cups since. She counts Holy Bull as her favorite horse of all time. She lives in Pasadena with her longtime beau, Tony, three Australian Shepherds and one Golden Retriever.