In 2007, the Santa Anita 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 carried by 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.
In addition to being an owner at the elite level, Lewis was also a very charitable supporter of other important causes, serving on many executive boards, including the Edwin J. Gregson Foundation. He and his wife also established the Robert and Beverly Lewis Cancer Center in nearby Pomona. His death left a void in the ownership ranks, as he was known to always do right by his horses, even if it meant they had to miss big races.
Before his death and after he sold Charismatic to stand at stud in Japan and similarly when Silver Charm left for the Far East a few years later, the Lewises included a clause to bring both horses home to America and made sure their passage would be paid. Both are now happy pensioners at Old Friends Farm in Kentucky — in large part due to the efforts of Lewis before he passed away.
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.
Saturday’s weather in Arcadia will be cool with highs in the mid-60s. The main track is likely to be fast and the turf course firm, but maybe softer than usual as it’s expected to rain into mid-day on Friday.
With local division leaders Gormley and Mastery waiting this one out, this year’s Lewis drew a small field of five. The best bet of the day may be that that trainer Doug O’Neill will hit the board, as he’ll tighten the girth on three of the five set to race the 1 1/16 miles for the lion’s share of the $150,000 pot.
Though he’ll be making his stakes debut after breaking his maiden last out in his fourth start, Sheer Flattery looks like the runner to beat. A member of the very hot Jerry Hollendorfer stable, the $100,000 Kentucky-bred son of Flatter is also co-owned by his trainer and has been training well at Santa Anita for months. He broke his maiden over a sloppy surface back on New Year’s Eve and while the weather is expected to be mostly dry, he has logged some good performances in three other races on dry tracks. Hot jockey Mike Smith will be back aboard and the pair will likely sit just off the early pace and wait until the stretch run to log their move.
Term of Art won the Cecil B. DeMille Stakes (GIII) at Del Mar in November at a mile on the main track when the race came off the turf and followed it up with a disappointing fifth, beaten 17 lengths, in the Sham Stakes (GIII) behind Gormley three weeks ago. It’s hard to say what went wrong that day, but it appeared the O’Neill-trained son of Tiznow just failed to fire. Regardless, new jockey Tyler Baze will be aboard and the pair will bide their time at the rear of the pack and wait for the speed in front of them to fall apart before making their move.
Royal Mo, who is owned by Jerry and Ann Moss and trained by John Sherriffs, finally emerged from the shadow of his highly regarded stable mate, Gormley, to break his maiden at third asking last out at Del Mar in November after logging a pair of seconds in his first two starts. He’s added a furlong with each race and improved each time, and a repeat of his last in wire-to-wire fashion makes him dangerous from the rail under Victor Espinoza, who is as good on the front end as any jockey in the country. His connections found a good spot for him to make his debut.
Dangerfield broke his maiden in the Los Alamitos Juvenile, but hasn’t raced in seven weeks since finishing third behind Mastery in the Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity (GI). He’s been training lights out recently, including a bullet six furlongs in 1:12 1/5 on Sunday, and he gets a rider switch to Hall of Famer Kent Desormeaux, subbing for the injured Drayden Van Dyke. He’s a good horse, but how good we’ve yet to see, maybe. He’s another who likes to close, but under his new rider it would not be a surprise if he were closer to the early pace than he’s been in the past.
It’s almost to the point where it wouldn’t be a stakes race without the presence of the familiar white and purple silks from owner Paul Reddam and O’Neill will send out the maiden Irap in here. He was second last out in the Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity, which was his best showing in four career races, but he’s unpredictable and hard to bet with any confidence in here.
Post time for the Bob Lewis Saturday, which has been carded as the second, will be 1:00 p.m. PT.