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Derby Prep Preview: G2-Robert Lewis & Whirlaway Stakes

ARCADIA, CA - NOVEMBER 07: A general view of the last race during the Breeders' Cup World Championships at Santa Anita Park November 7, 2009 in Arcadia, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
ARCADIA, CA - NOVEMBER 07: A general view of the last race during the Breeders' Cup World Championships at Santa Anita Park November 7, 2009 in Arcadia, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

G2 - Robert B. Lewis Stakes
Santa Anita Park
1 1/16 miles
Three Year Olds Colts


PP

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

ML

1

Macias

Espinoza V

Baffert Bob

8/1

2

Dave in Dixie

Rosario J

Sadler John W

3/1

3

Tiz Chrome

Gomez G K

Baffert Bob

2/1

4

Caracortado

Atkinson P

Machowsky Michael

6/1

5

Tango Tango

Bejarano R

Hollendorfer Jerry

20/1

6

American Lion

Leparoux J R

Harty Eoin

5/2

7

Domonation

Talamo J

Sadler John W

8/1

This year's Robert B. Lewis features a small field of seven but what this race lacks in field size it makes up for with depth of class.  The "Big 3" in this race are 2-Dave in Dixie, 3-Tiz Chrome, and 6-American Lion.  Dave in Dixie sports just two lifetime starts but it's that last effort, a sixth place finish in the G1-Norfolk, that indicates a possible big step up in this race.  Dave in Dixie is a closer so he's going to have to deal with traffic trouble more than other horses, which is exactly what happened in the Norfolk.  He ran into a little bit of a rough trip while coming around the final turn but was still able to make a late run and finish just two lengths back of the winner, Lookin at Lucky.  A clean trip in this spot could make for a big improvement.

Tiz Chrome is also making only his third career start after winning back to back sprint events at Churchill Downs and Hollywood Park.  This colt possesses a good deal of early speed and in my mind should be the leader heading into the first turn.  If Tiz Chrome is able to run a big race in the Lewis he is certainly going to be one of the SoCal horses to keep an eye on for one very important reason: he has already proven he can win on a conventional dirt surface - that's something that a lot of the California contenders won't be able to claim prior to the Derby

American Lion is running for the first time since winning the G3-Hollywood Prevue back on November 21st.  He's displayed a nice stalk-and-pounce style in all three of his lifetime starts and draws an excellent post position to run that way here.  His regular rider, Julien Leparoux, makes the trip out from Florida to take the mount in the Lewis - that is certainly not a bad sign.

As for the other four entries in the Lewis, 1-Macias looks a little light on class in this spot and should have his hands full pace-wise from Tiz Chrome.  The undefeated 4-Caracortado is an interesting longshot possibility after dominating a couple of Cal-bred races in his last two efforts.  He's displayed a versatile running style and generally appears to have an excellent knowledge of the finish line.  And while he might not be a prime win candidate, he certainly presents some options if your looking at a partial wheel exacta.

7-Domonation is coming in off a decent looking effort in the G3-San Rafael on January 16th.  However, there were only four other horses in the field that day and this spot looks quite a bit tougher.  Finally, 5-Tango Tango is going to need to get a whole lot better in a big hurry to steal the prize here.  I find it tough to even make a case for him in the exotics.

I like Dave in Dixie in this spot; if he's improved just 10 or 15% since the Norfolk he could be exceptionally difficult to beat.  Plus, it looks like there is plenty of speed in here to set up his late running style.

 

Whirlaway Stakes
Aqueduct
1 1/16 miles
Three Year Old Colts

PP

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

ML

1

Turf Melody

Napravnik A R

Motion H Graham

8/1

2

Eightyfiveinafifty

Chavez J F

Contessa Gary C

2/5

3

Peppi Knows

Migliore R

Kreiser Timothy C

15/1

4

Afleet Again

Serpa A

Reid Robert E Jr

30/1

5

Three Day Rush

Cohen D

Pletcher Todd A

3/1

6

Papa's Nice Cat

Luzzi M J

Englehart Chris

15-1

This preview is going to be very easy and fairly short because of one indisputable fact: Eightyfiveinafifty is really good.

Seriously, I could go into a long, drawn out essay on some longshot plays and other horses that look like they have a chance at an upset but that would be a waste of time.  Eightyfiveinafifty blew the doors a field of maidens last time out on the inner track to win by 17 1/4 lengths with a Beyer of 105.  In his race prior to that he finished 3rd to Dublin in Maiden Special Weight at Saratoga in early August.  Class, speed, recency, pace...it really doesn't matter how you stack it up, this colt deserves to be the odds on favorite.

I'll watch the race, take some notes, and decide what to do with Eightyfiveinafifty on my Derby contender list after he wins by ten.

If you want to talk about the other horses I'll say this: we just saw 1-Turf Melody down at the Fair Grounds in the Lecomte and now Motion is wheeling him back on two weeks rest and shipping him to New York.  That's a somewhat strange move in this day and age...and if it were any other trainer I would really wonder what the connections are thinking.  But since we're talking about Graham Motion, an accomplished horseman that knows how to spot his horses effectively, we have to respect his decision to place Turf Melody in this spot.  I don't see him as the winner but he certainly has a shot at being "best of the rest".