ARCADIA, Calif. — Although Bob Baffert will be packing a heavy one-two punch with Spielberg and Medina Spirit, Saturday’s Grade III, $100,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes has attracted a very competitive field of eight sophomores, with no clear-cut standout. To be contested at a mile and one sixteenth over Santa Anita’s main track, the Lewis is a key prep to the Grade I Santa Anita Derby on April 3. Originally titled the Santa Catalina, the Lewis will be run for the 83rd time on Saturday.
Named in honor of the prominent late owner and philanthropist Robert B. Lewis, who along with his wife Beverly, owned two Kentucky Derby winners, Silver Charm in 1997 and Charismatic in 1999, the Lewis winner will receive 10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points. The second place finisher will receive four, third place nets two points and the fourth place finisher will get one point.
Spielberg comes off a gutty nose victory at the same distance in the Grade II Los Alamitos Futurity on Dec. 19, which was his sixth career start. The win no doubt took on added luster when the runner-up, Doug O’Neill’s The Great One, came back to demolish a field of maidens by 14 lengths this past Saturday.
Purchased for $1 million as a Keeneland September Yearling, Spielberg, a chestnut colt by Union Rags, out of the Smart Strike mare Miss Squeal, has been favored in four of his six starts and he’ll be making his fifth graded stakes appearance. Owned by SF Racing, LLC, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, LLC, Golconda Stables, Siena Farm, LLC and Robert Masterson, Spielberg will be ridden back by Flavien Prat and be trying to provide Baffert with his third consecutive Lewis win and his record ninth overall.
A first-out maiden winner going 5 ½ furlongs at Los Alamitos Dec. 11, Medina Spirit far outran his 9-1 odds in finishing a fast closing second, beaten three quarters of a length by his highly regarded stablemate Life Is Good in the Grade I Sham Stakes going one mile on Jan. 2. Owned by Zedan Racing Stables, Inc., Medina Spirit, Florida-bred colt by the Giant’s Causeway stallion Protonico, was purchased for a modest $35,000 at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company July Two-Year-Olds and Horses of Racing Age Sale, 2020.
Second the entire trip in the Sham, Medina Spirit hit his best stride late and earned a lofty 99 Beyer Speed figure in the process. He’ll be ridden back by Abel Cedillo, who comes of a fabulous three-day week at Santa Anita in which he posted nine wins.
Dismissed at 94-1, Doug O’Neill’s Hot Rod Charlie made the lead a furlong from home and finished second, beaten three quarters of a length in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Nov. 6 at Keeneland, earning a 94 Beyer. A one mile maiden winner here two starts back on Oct. 2, this colt by Oxbow is vastly improved, has been training impressively and will get the first time services of Joel Rosario. Owned by Roadrunner Racing, Boat Racing, LLC and Strauss Bros Racing, Hot Rod Charlie closed much ground at Keeneland and will hope to be rolling late with plenty of pace to exploit in the Lewis.
A $500,000 Keeneland September Yearling purchase, C R K Stable’s Parnelli could likely pose significant trouble for anyone with front-running aspirations. A galloping 5 ¾ one mile maiden winner two starts back at Del Mar Nov. 28, this colt by Quality Road was a bit rank while under restraint early in the Sham on Jan. 2 and was never a factor thereafter. With a win, three seconds and a third, Parnelli, who is trained by John Shirreffs, will be ridden for the first time by Umberto Rispoli.
Owned by Reddam Racing, LLC and trained by Doug O’Neill, Wipe the Slate could also add plenty of fuel to the early pace fire, as he comes off an impressive 3 ¼ length maiden win going seven furlongs here on Dec. 26. A Kentucky-bred colt by Reddam’s 2016 Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist, Wipe the Slate looms a legitimate contender in his third start with Mario Gutierrez riding back.
THE GRADE III ROBERT B. LEWIS STAKES
Race 7 of 8. Approximate post time 3:30 p.m. PT
1. Medina Spirit—Abel Cedillo—120
2. Rombauer—Mike Smith—120
3. Parnelli—Umberto Rispoli—120
4. Hot Rod Charlie—Joel Rosario—120
5. Roman Centurian—Juan Hernandez—120
6. Waspirant—Ricardo Gonzalez—120
7. Wipe the Slate—Mario Gutierrez—120
8. Spielberg—Flavien Prat—124
First post time for an eight-race card on Saturday is at 12:30 p.m. PT (3:30 p.m. ET). All of Santa Anita’s races are offered free of charge at SantaAnitaLive and fans can watch and wager a 1stbet.com/.
Entries for Saturday, January 30 at Santa Anita.
Photo of Spielberg (Benoit)