Rematch: Liaison vs. Rousing Sermon
Hold on a minute Super Bowl fans Patriots vs. Giants is not the only contest with a score to settle this weekend. Welcome to the Robert B. Lewis stakes where another much-anticipated rematch is awaiting. Dig in race fans we could be in for a duel. On paper the most accomplished of the 8 horses is Liaison, trained by Bob Baffert and winner of back to back stakes races including the G1 CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park. While wins give him the spotlight, Rousing Sermon who finished 2nd in both is rear and ready to go.
Let’s begin by backtracking to Round 1, the Real Quiet Stakes at Hollywood Park. Both horses entered coming off of a win at Santa Anita but Rousing Sermon had added experience and a more significant win under his belt. The previous race is when he scored his 2nd career win in the California Cup Juvenile, his first career race through two turns. Meanwhile Liaison entered off a MSW win in his 2nd career start at 7 Furlongs.
The two horses were locked in for the CashCall Prep and were ready to make their move when it was time to hit the stretch. At the end of the day only one horse that turned 3 wide at the top of the lane would enter the winners circle. As for Rousing Sermon, he would have to wait for the CashCall Futurity.
Each proved their potential in the Real Quiet and showed that there weren’t any problems with handling the distance. Round 2, also at 1 1/16 mile, was all it was cracked up to be and then some. Talk about a repeat performance, Liaison held tough to hang on by a slimmer margin than round 1 where out dueld and won by a ½ length. Rousing Sermon’s stretch duel in the CashCall was not only from further off the pace, 10th place, it was extra aggressive. But when the two hit the wire it was Liaison by a neck.
For anyone that has yet to watch either of these stretch duels I highly recommend you that you do. I guarantee that after you see the agony of Rousing Sermon’s back to back losses it will give you a good idea of how bad his connections, Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer and Jockey Joe Talamo, want this one on Saturday.
So where in the world outside of Southern California could we have such an exciting story line on the trail to the Kentucky Derby? Originated as the Santa Catalina Handicap in 1935 the name was most recently changed in 2007 to honor Robert B. Lewis, legendary horsemen and owner. Outside of his continuous contributions to the sport Mr. Lewis is mostly known for his great champion thoroughbreds Serena’s Song, Silver Charm and Charismatic among many others. In its very long and extended history, Ferdinand remains the only winner that ever went on to win the Kentucky Derby. Let’s take a look at our field that will attempt to join our 1986 Kentucky Derby champion.
G2 Robert B. Lewis Stakes | Purse $200,000 | 3 Year Olds | 1 1/16 Mile | Dirt
|1||Isn’t He Clever||C. Nakatani||H. Dominguez||6-1|
|2||Liaison||R. Bejarano||B. Baffert||9-5|
|3||Groovin’ Solo||V. Espinoza||M. Cho||12-1|
|4||I’ll Have Another||M. Gutierrez||D. O’Neill||12-1|
|5||Sky Kingdom||M. Garcia||B. Baffert||6-1|
|6||Rousing Sermon||J. Talamo||J. Hollendorfer||5-2|
|7||Empire Way||J. Rosario||M. Harrington||6-1|
|8||Chips All In||A. Quinonez||J. Mullins||6-1|
Gaining momentum and making his way into California from New Mexico is Isn’t He Clever. Certain horses and certain races make it hard for owners and trainers not to shoot for the stars. This is a horse that made it impossible for his connections to choose otherwise. Entering with 3 wins in 4 starts, the staple win in his early career was last time out in the Riley Allison Futurity at Sunland Park on 12/30. A win is always good but winning by over 11 lengths is something else.
Entering the race after a 2nd place finish in the Clever Trevor at Remington Park there were high hopes for this gelding that was returning to New Mexico for the first time since his career began with back to back wins at Zia Park. But when he scorched the field at 6 ½ Furlongs his trainer was faced with a decision that any trainer would make; enter a derby prep and test your horses’ distance.
This will be his first ever race through two turns. Drawing Post Position #1, I expect Isn’t He Clever to get out front early in an attempt to win wire to wire. Corey Nakatani is scheduled to be in the irons for the first time.
Empire Way is a horse that enters looking for his first top 3 finish in a graded stakes race. With nice blood lines, from Empire Maker and Delta Princess by A.P. Indy, this colt could very easily make his splash on Saturday. In his last two he finished on the outside looking in by just a little bit. Empire Way came back with a 5th place finish in the CashCall Futurity after running 6th in the G3 Hollywood Prevue. This will be his first career race on dirt so it will be interesting to see how he responds.
Bob Baffert only has 1 horse in the field? No way, Sky Kingdom joins in. After breaking his maiden his in his third career race it was enough for Baffert to enter him into the CashCall where he finished 4th. Having never raced on dirt he was moved to Santa Anita earlier this month for an Allowance, his third consecutive race at 1 1/16 mile. Sky Kingdom responded to the dirt very well and scored his second career win. I’d keep a close eye on this colt and consider him for all exotic wagering or long shot plays.
Round 3. I would love to see another duel between these two down the stretch and I’m guessing that’s what it will be. Outside of an upset performance from Sky Kingdom or Chips All In, both coming off wins at Santa Anita, I see this as a two-horse race. That being said it’s their 3-yr-old debuts so if there’s any time for them to race off their game, it would have to be this weekend.
Because Santa Anita represents the California circuit with a true dirt racing surface, I expect this round to be a prep for the Santa Anita Derby in April where the two are very likely to meet again. Good luck in round 3 and too all of our other derby hopefuls in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes.
Written by: Little Brink