This weekend’s Kentucky Derby Prep Series rotates to the west coast and the Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita Park on Saturday afternoon as Race No. 4 (post time 5 p.m. ET) on the card. The $150,000 Grade 3 Lewis will be run at 1 1/16 miles on the main track at the Great Race Place and it has attracted seven colts hoping to accumulate valuable Derby qualifying points.
Triple Crown winning trainer Bob Baffert will send out the heavy favorite Mor Spirit along with barn mate Let’s Meet in Rio. He won the race in 2015 with Dortmund, who finished third in the Kentucky Derby. It’s the first of three west coast key prep races at Santa Anita, culminating in the 100-point Santa Anita Derby on Apr. 12.
Let’s take a look at the field (post position, trainer, jockey and ML odds in parenthesis):
1 – Let’s Meet in Rio (Baffert, Desormeaux) The son of Flatter, out of a Storm Cat mare, finished second behind Collected in the Grade 3 Sham with a late run. He’s been working lights out and this one could be sneaky-good with most of the betting public likely to focus on his barn mate. With a lot of speed in the race, he could be around to pick up the pieces if the race falls apart. Dangerous.
2 – I Will Score (Hollendorfer, Smith) You have to respect Hollendorfer, especially with fast, young colts. The son of Roman Ruler is lightly raced (undefeated in two career races) and has yet to go two turns. Those are enough for me to sit one out.
3 – Dressed in Hermes (Armstrong, Bejarano) Scratched out of the LeComte a couple of weeks ago and will try to jump on the trail after four straight turf efforts. His last two jockeys grabbed different mounts (Smith, Stevens), but don’t read too much into that. Defeated Collected on the turf and he came back to win the Sham. Interesting.
4 – Laoban (Guillot, Baze) Can you imagine Eric Guillot on the Derby trail. He’s a walking quote machine and every turf writer around the country has to be hoping the son of Uncle Mo makes a gallant run to the Derby just for the entertainment. He’s finished behind the Baffert rail horse twice in his last two efforts and is still looking for his maiden victory.
5 – Mor Spirit (Baffert, Stevens) Baffert’s highly-regarded colt who is already in most Top 10 lists off his win in the Los Alamitos Futurity. The son of Eskendereya hopes to make it further than his father who was the likely morning line favorite in the Run for the Roses before bowing out early in Derby week due to an injury. His only loss came in the slop in the Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill to the well respected Airoforce. The one to beat.
6 – Path of David (Mulhall, Talamo) Another late closer who will be making the transition from turf to dirt. Has won two straight on the weeds, but his speed figures look a bit light and will need to improve greatly to crack the board.
7 – Uncle Lino (Sherlock, Perez) Another Uncle Mo coming in third off the layoff off a decent workout. Broke his maiden at Del Mar and lost to the lightly raced I Will Score in an optional claimer. Tries two turns for the first time. Passing.
Post Time Outlook: 1 – Let's Meet in Rio; 2- Mor Spirit; 3 – Dressed in Hermes
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.