ARCADIA, Calif. (Feb. 3, 2016)–Bob Baffert, who has trained the winners of four Kentucky Derbies and a record seven Santa Anita Derbies, will hope to unleash yet another Derby ‘A’-Lister on Saturday at Santa Anita, as his Mor Spirit heads a field of seven in the Grade III, $150,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes at 1 1/16 miles.
A Pennsylvania-bred ridgling by Eskendereya, Mor Spirit, who has been favored in all four of his starts, comes off a length and a quarter win in the Grade I, 1 1/16 miles Los Alamitos Futurity Dec. 19 at odds of 3-5.
Owned by Michael Lund Petersen, Mor Spirit was an emphatic 4 ¼ length maiden special weight winner in his second start here on Oct. 23 and was subsequently a close second in the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes on a sloppy track Nov. 28 at Churchill Downs.
“He has a lot of tactical speed but you can’t let him use it too early,” said Baffert this past Sunday. “We’re teaching him to sit and wait. He’s a big horse and beautifully made. He’s got a really long stride. He’ll be best going a mile and an eighth and further.”
Ridden by Gary Stevens in three out of his four starts, Mor Spirit is 4-2-2-0 with earnings of $288,400.
Baffert will also be represented in the Lewis by Juddmonte Farms’ homebred Let’s Meet in Rio, who rallied to be a close second in the Grade III, one mile Sham Stakes on Jan. 9. A Kentucky-bred colt by Flatter, Let’s Meet in Rio would appear to have plenty of upside with Kent Desormeaux back in the irons.
Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer would appear to be armed and dangerous in the Lewis with lightly raced I Will Score, who tries two turns for the first time following a game first condition allowance win going 6 ½ furlongs here on Jan. 3. A facile first-out maiden special weight winner going 5 ½ furlongs at Los Alamitos Sept. 11, I Will Score will be ridden for the third consecutive time by Mike Smith. A Kentucky-bred colt by Roman Ruler, he’s owned by his breeder, Hans Poetsch.
Two necks shy of being undefeated in three starts, trainer Gary Sherlock’s Uncle Lino, like I Will Score, possesses an abundance of natural speed and will be trying a route of ground for the first time in the Lewis. A Kentucky-bred colt by Uncle Mo, he’s owned by Tom Mansor, Purple Shamrock Racing and Sherlock.
Budget Stable’s talented homebred Dressed in Hermes comes off a gutty 1 ¼ length win in the Grade III Cecil B. DeMille Stakes going one mile on turf Nov. 29 and will try the main track for the first time in five starts. Trained by Janet Armstrong, who bases at San Louis Rey Downs, Dressed in Hermes is 5-2-0-1 with earnings of $162,600.
A winner of the one mile turf Eddie Logan Stakes here Dec. 31, trainer Kristin Mulhall’s Path of David has also been on the grass in his last four starts. Well beaten sprinting in two dirt starts as a maiden, Path of David is by the Gone West stallion Istan. Owned by Ike and Dawn Thrash and Sam and Janet Alley, Path of David will be ridden by Joe Talamo, who’s guided him to two consecutive wins on turf.
Third, beaten 2 ¾ lengths in the Sham Stakes here Jan. 9, trainer Eric Guillot’s Laoban figures to employ a stalk and pounce approach in his fourth career start. He’s owned by McCormick Racing, LLC and Southern Equine Stable, LLC.
The complete field for the Grade III Robert B. Lewis Stakes, to be run as the fourth race on a nine-race card Saturday, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Let’s Meet in Rio, Kent Desormeaux, 119; I Will Score, Mike Smith, 119; Dressed in Hermes, Rafael Bejarano, 121; Laoban, Tyler Baze, 119; Mor Spirit, Gary Stevens, 124; Path of David, Joe Talamo, 119, and Uncle Lino, Fernando Perez, 119.
First post time on Saturday is at 12:30 p.m. Admission gates open at 10:30 a.m.