Focus Shifts to the Next Derby Prep
At 43-1 I’ll Have Another made it look easy in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes. Starting the day at 12-1 on the Morning Line the Doug O’Neil trained colt continued to drift on the tote boards before he broke from the starting gate and showed the betting public, including myself, what we were missing.
In his first ever race around two turns and first in the last 5 months, I’ll Have Another came ready to run in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes. Breaking towards the front and stalking in 2nd behind Isn’t He Clever jockey Mario Gutierrez kept him there until the stretch where he took the lead and put the field away to win by 2 3/4 lengths.
As for the favorite Liaison, trouble seems to have been avoided after a minor incident with Groovin’ Solo in the stretch. Liaison failed to fire when urged at the quarter pole and fell back between Isn’t He Clever and Groovin’ Solo. At midstretch is when Groovin’ Solo and jockey Victor Espinoza ducked in on Liaison from the outside causing him to clip heels and toss jockey Rafael Bejarano. The good news is that Liaison did not fall in the incident and Rafael was able to enter into the trackside ambulance under his own power. It appears that both horse and jockey checked out clear as there are no injuries to report.
The incident created a stewards inquiry and after review Groovin’ Solo was disqualified and taken down from his third place finish. That moved Rousing Sermon up into that spot behind Empire Way who used an opening on the inside and along the rail to close from well off the pace.
G2 Robert B. Lewis | Purse: $200,000 | 1 1/16 Mile | Dirt | Track: Fast – 1:40.84
- #4 I’ll Have Another $88.60 $35.80 $12.00
- #7 Empire Way $11.80 $6.20
- #6 Rousing Sermon $3.40
$1.00 Exacta $399.00 $1.00 Trifecta $3,461.00 $1 Superfecta $18,554.20
§ Also Ran (in order of finish) Isn’t He Clever, Sky Kingdom, Chips All In, Liaison, Groovin’ Solo (DQ’d). Race Chart via Equibase
Let’s take a look at where the derby trail leads for the horses that are likely to continue starting with our Big Money Winner
I’ll Have Another Owner Paul Reddam – Trainer Doug O’Neill – Jockey Mario Gutierrez Colt, Foaled 4/1/2009 (Flower Alley & Arch’s Gall Edith by Arch)
Taking home $120,000 which will be added to his overall graded stakes earnings is a big stepping stone for his trail towards the first Saturday in May. Couple this win with his 2nd place finish in the G2 Best Pal at Del Mar in August and it brings his overall graded earnings to $151,000. But not only did this race do a lot for him in that category another important measure was also achieved at Santa Anita – racing well through two turns.
After a disappointing effort in the G1 Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga last September it would be his final race of the year. So coming into Santa Anita I’ll Have Another needed to prove that the 5 month rest was worth the wait and that he was ready to race at a distance of 1 1/16 mile. Drawing away from the field in the stretch he proved that the turns were not an issue and showed that climbing to the Kentucky Derby distance of 1 1/4 mile should not turn out to be an unachievable challenge.
After a convincing win he should now be considered as one of the top west coast contenders. If these silks look familiar it’s because the connections scored their second Robert B. Lewis. Previously it was Great Hunter in 2007 but I expect this horse to take a different route to Kentucky. Great Hunter was moved to Kentucky for the Blue Grass Stakes but I’ll Have Another might be kept on dirt and return again for the G2 San Felipe on March 10 or the G1 Santa Anita Derby, April 7.
Rousing Sermon and Liaison, the headliners coming in, come away with a pair of disappointing finishes. But I’m reluctant to declare this race as a step backwards on the derby trail. Rousing Sermon benefits the most from Liasion clipping heels down the stretch because the disqualification of Groovin’ Solo landed him in 3rd place and increased his earnings to a total of $24,000, $164,000 overall.
Good news for Liaison is that Bob Baffert didn’t give any indications of injury. 3-yr-old debuts don’t always go as planned so their next race should paint a clearer picture of where they stand on the derby trail. Both horses are doing well on graded stakes earnings and on track to qualify but they will need to respond with a solid performance next time out. Expect both horses to stay on the West Coast and an upcoming Santa Anita Derby prep.
Empire Way got what he needed most – Graded Stakes Earnings. This was his 3rd career graded stakes race but his first time landing inside the top three. After finishing just outside, 5th and 6th in the CashCall and Hollwood Prevue, his prize of $40,000 is a very nice take. 2nd place leaves him on the Kentucky Derby trail and sets him up nicely for the next prep that he will enter.
Because this was his first career race on dirt, I can’t say for sure which direction owner Heinz Steinmann and Trainer Mike Harrington will point him to next. His January training was on the synthetic surface at Hollywood Park exclusively but I don’t see this horse racing outside of Santa Anita next time out. Additional graded stakes earnings are needed to qualify for the Kentucky Derby so look for him to return in next month’s San Felipe.
Every Stakes race makes things even more interesting on the derby trail and the Robert B. Lewis only added to it. I’ll Have Another has his hat in the ring so he’s going to be exciting to watch as his trail continues.
Written by: Little Brink