The first of four stakes races at Santa Anita on Saturday, the $200,000 Robert B. Lewis (G3) pits just four promising sophomores against each other. None can earn the Kentucky Derby (G1) points on offer, since they’re all trained by Bob Baffert, who is suspended by Churchill Downs Inc.
Robert B. Lewis (G3) – Race 3 (4 p.m. ET)
Newgate is the most accomplished, and experienced, of the Baffert quartet. Fourth in the Del Mar Futurity (G1) and fifth in the salty Breeders’ Futurity (G1) behind champion Forte last fall, Newgate has since finished second in the Bob Hope (G3) and Sham (G3). The $850,000 son of Into Mischief missed by a neck in the latter, and a returning Frankie Dettori will try to get him over the hump.
Arabian Lion, a shocking last as the 2-5 choice in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2), is back on the prowl for a rebound. From the first crop of Triple Crown champion Justify, the Zedan Racing runner returns to the scene of his front-running debut victory. Arabian Lion was subsequently overturned in a Nov. 4 allowance on the “Future Stars Friday” undercard at Keeneland, but it was a fast-run seven furlongs. The winner, Giant Mischief, is among Brad Cox’s well-regarded army, and Arabian Lion crossed the wire 17 1/2 lengths clear of third. John Velazquez sticks with him after the Los Alamitos flop, reinforcing the idea that Arabian Lion will turn the page. He projects speed on the rail.
Hard to Figure, in contrast, posted his best performance at Los Alamitos when breaking his maiden in the restricted Capote S. A hard-to-handle fifth behind stablemates Havnameltdown and Newgate in the Bob Hope, Hard to Figure adds blinkers and keeps Ramon Vazquez. The Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman colorbearer is drawn on the outside in post 4.
Worcester enters as a maiden, but the Empire Maker colt gets leading rider Juan Hernandez – and his first opportunity to route in this 1 1/16-mile affair. Fourth to stablemate Faustin in his Dec. 26 unveiling, he rallied for second to another high-profile Baffert, Hejazi, in his latest. Sharing largely overlapping ownership with Newgate, Worcester races for the consortium led by SF Racing, Starlight Racing, and Madaket Stables.
Megahertz (G3) – Race 4 (4:30 p.m. ET)
Hamwood Flier, who wired the Swingtime S. over this turf course and one-mile trip two back, drops in class after fading to fourth in the Matriarch (G1). The Phil D’Amato trainee is joined by stablemates School Dance and Oakhurst, the respective near-misser and fourth in the American Oaks (G1). Team Valor’s French stakes vixen Nadette was a promising runner-up in her stateside bow in the Autumn Miss (G3), beaten only by next-out American Oaks winner Rhea Moon.
Bay Storm, third in the Suwannee River (G3) last out at Gulfstream Park, scratched from the Pegasus World Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G3) for this less formidable spot. Closing Remarks and Quattroelle rounded out the Robert J. Frankel (G3) trifecta behind subsequent Pegasus heroine Queen Goddess.
Santa Monica (G2) – Race 9 (7 p.m. ET)
The top two from the La Brea (G1), Fun to Dream and Awake at Midnyte, square off again over the same seven-furlong distance. Lady T steps up a panel following her victory over elders in the Dec. 31 Las Flores (G3), where Samurai Charm was a subpar fourth as the 13-10 favorite, and Anacapa wound up a non-threatening seventh. Angel Nadeshiko shortens up in the wake of a fourth in the La Canada (G3).
Thunder Road (G3) – Race 10 (7:30 p.m. ET)
There Goes Harvard, last year’s Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) upsetter, launches his comeback by going back to turf. The Michael McCarthy charge has been sidelined since trailing in the July 30 San Diego (G2). Before emerging in the older dirt male division, he was 2-for-3 on the grass, including a sharp score in an allowance at this course and one-mile distance.
Air Force Red is the one to catch, coming off wire jobs in the course-and-distance Lure S. as well as the Joe Hernandez (G2) sprinting down the hill. Looking to move forward off losses in the Hernandez are Irideo (fifth), Kiss Today Goodbye (seventh), and Hit the Road (last of 10). Kiss Today Goodbye, who scored his signature win in the 2020 San Antonio (G2), is still winless on turf.
Conor Murphy ships British import Dark Shift, victor of last summer’s Royal Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot and a closing fifth in his U.S. premiere at Keeneland. Dettori rides the son of Dark Angel, who had hopes of landing a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) and Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1). Twilight Derby (G2) winner Cabo Spirit, exiting a fifth in the Hollywood Derby (G1), tackles older horses for the first time.
Grade 1 veteran Hit the Road and Bob and Jackie, who furnished the exacta in the 2021 Thunder Road (G3), are both making their second starts back from long layoffs. Hit the Road stretches back out from the Hernandez, and drops the blinkers, while Bob and Jackie reverts in trip after retreating to fifth in the 1 1/8-mile San Gabriel (G2). Du Jour, best known for capturing the 2021 American Turf (G2) on Derby Day, resurfaces from a 13-month absence for Baffert.
Last-out allowance winner Earls Rock could be poised to fulfill his early promise for D’Amato, and Anaconda was runner-up in the Aqueduct Turf Sprint Championship on Nov. 25.