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Headed by trainer Jerry Hollendorfer’s Shivermetimbers, Saturday’s Grade 3, $150,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes has attracted a field of nine Kentucky Derby hopefuls at a mile and 1/16. Named for one of the most popular owners in California Thoroughbred racing history, the Lewis serves as a traditional prep to the Grade 1, $1 million Santa Anita Derby at a mile and 1/8 on April 7.
In a field devoid of a stakes winner, Shivermetimbers is the logical favorite, having been idle since breaking his maiden going a flat mile on November 23 at Del Mar, a race in which he earned a Lewis-best last-out 90 Beyer speed figure.
Second by a head behind Shivermetimbers on November 23, the Richard Mandella-conditioned Peace came back to break his maiden at a mile and 1/16 here on December 30. He’ll try to turn the tables on the top selection as they both make their fourth career starts on Saturday.
The Kentucky Derby prep will go off as the fifth event on a nine-race card, with several other stakes races also slated for the day. The Lewis winner receives 10 Derby qualifying points.
The field from the rail out: Ayacara, Pepe Tono, Dark Vader, Lombo, Shivermetimbers, Inscom, Peace, Regulate, and Blame the Rider.
#5 Shivermetimbers – This may be one of the weakest Kentucky Derby prep races of all time, and it would have to be for me to pick Shivermetimbers on top. After breaking his maiden two back, it looked as though he was an up-and-coming horse, but he struggled in his last race, finishing fourth in the Grade 3 Sham Stakes. There’s no shame in losing to McKinzie, who’s beaten him twice now, but he also lost to All Out Blitz and My Boy Jack in the Sham. Normally, this would not be a horse to pick in a prep race, but the fact is that he’s the best in the race. He may be the second betting choice to a horse (Peace) that he’s already beaten. This race doesn’t get you very excited to wager.
#7 Peace – He’s never finished worse than second in three lifetime starts and broke through with a victory last out by nearly a length over maiden special weight company. He was also beaten by $150,000 Smarty Jones winner Mourinho on debut. You can tell by those company lines that he’s been up against some decent runners, and he actually finished ahead of Instilled Regard in his debut race. From a class standpoint, nobody really has much in this race, but he and Shivermetimbers have a lot more than the rest of this field.
#4 Lombo – He could be very dangerous if left alone on the front end, and on paper, it looks like it’ll be that way. Two races back, he ran into a monster in Ax Man who would probably be heavily favored in this race. The big question mark will be the stretch out in distance, as he’s never gone a route of ground. His breeding suggests that he can handle it, though, and he’s in good hands, as Flavien Prat picks up the mount. He might be tough to catch if he sneaks away with an easy lead.
#2 Pepe Tono – He closed strongly in his last race to score in a maiden special weight over this track going a mile. He gets more ground here, which should be a positive, but I’m not sure how the pace will set up for him because there’s not much early speed for him to catch. It looks as though he’s very one-dimensional, so he’ll always be a victim of the pace. If he can get a little help on the front end, then he could be dangerous, and the pedigree is there for him to be a nice horse.
#8 Regulate – I have no idea what to think of this horse. The connections are powerful, and he’s bred to be a nice horse. His debut race was not good, but he came back in a tough allowance race next out and nearly won. However, his latest start was much like the first, as he was sluggish and finished a well-beaten sixth. If not for the connections, I wouldn’t give him a second look, but if he brings his best effort in this pathetic field, then he is not out of the question.
#6 Inscom – He switches back to the dirt after four straight races on the turf. He has one dirt start, but it didn’t go well at all, as he finished a very distant sixth. This race could go better for him, but he has some proving to do.
#9 Blame the Rider – This maiden ran third behind Pepe Tono in his last effort. He’ll look to drop back and make one run at the end, but the pace setup may not be in his favor.
#1 Ayacara – He’s intriguing from a connections standpoint, who are pretty good at pulling upsets. There are some positives here, but not enough for me to get on board. His best race on the dirt was a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 FrontRunner, where he was beaten by nearly 14 lengths.
#3 Dark Vader – Slowly but surely, he got up to win a maiden special weight at Los Alamitos last time out. He needed the entire massive stretch at that track to get the job done, so unless the pace totally collapses here, he’ll have a hard time getting up in time.
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