[As the road to the 147th Kentucky Derby rolls along, US Racing takes a look back at some history of many of the prep races that now offer qualifying points to Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs on May 1.]
By Margaret Ransom
In 2007, the Santa Anita Derby (G1)/Kentucky Derby (G1) prep once known as the Santa Catalina Stakes was renamed the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3) to honor one of the most beloved owners in thoroughbred racing who passed away the year before.
The familiar green and yellow silks representing Lewis and his beloved wife Beverly, and created in homage to the pair’s alma mater, the University of Oregon, were carried by some of the most accomplished runners in racing history, including Derby and Preakness winners Silver Charm and Charismatic (also the 1999 Horse of the Year), champions Serena’s Song, Orientate, and Folklore, to name a few.
The Lewis remains one of the few stakes still offered at The Great Race Place since the track opened in 1935, though not continuously due to a three-year absence during World War II, and since then some pretty familiar names have had their photo taken after reaching the wire in front. Among them: Sham and Ferdinand, classic-placed Pioneerof the Nile and dual classic winner I’ll Have Another.
Some other notable winners include champions Declan’s Moon, Artax, Dortmund and Mucho Gusto. A year ago, Thousand Words won the Lewis and made it as far as the paddock for the COVID-19 delayed Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5, but spooked in the paddock and flipped over, fracturing the arm of Bob Baffert’s assistant Jimmy Barnes. He was scratched from the race and went on to finish eighth in the Preakness, before closing out his career with a sixth-place finish in the Malibu Stakes (G1) on Dec. 26.
Baffert has saddled a record eight winners (1999, 2003, 2009, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2019 and 2020) and Hall of Famers Bill Shoemaker and Laffit Pincay, Jr. each rode a record seven wins. The race has been contested at various distances from 7- to 9 furlongs and once at three furlongs in 1940, when it was offered for 2-year-olds. This year, once again, the Bob Lewis offers valuable road to the Derby points to make the starting gate on the first Saturday in May on a 10-4-2-1 schedule to the top-four finishers.
Saturday’s weather in Arcadia will be cool but the rain from the previous days will be over and the high will reach the low 60s under mostly sunny skies.
The Robert B. Lewis field, which is the afternoon’s seventh race and will break from the gate at 3:30 p.m. PT.
Robert B. Lewis Stakes Field
The field for Saturday’s race by post position, with riders and trainers in parentheses: