Robert B Lewis Odds & Santa Anita Graded Races

This weekend Santa Anita offers five Graded races. On Sunday the highlights are Robert B Lewis and Las Virgenes Stakes.

On Saturday, the G2 San Pasquale Stakes looks the one to really look forward to as gutsy Express Train will attempt winning the race for the second time; however, a Bob Baffert duo Speilberg – Eight Rings could be firmly against it.

Four-year-old fillies and older mares will clash in the G2 Santa Monica Stakes, and even though Merneith might be classy enough to become the back-to-back winner here, Ce Ce never gives up and promising Kalypso could just sweep them all.

Subconscious then seems primed to score the G3 Thunder Road Stakes, while Sunday’s card features a couple of races meant to three-year-olds aiming at the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks, respectively.

San Pasqual S

The former handicap run at the distance of a mile and a furlong welcomes a field of six four-year-old and older horses, while the purse of $200,000 also attracted the last year’s winner, Express Train (2-1).

He scored the G2 dirt race easily for John Shirreffs and continued delivering good results for the team since the four-year-old bay finished second in the G1 Santa Anita Handicap, third in the G1 Hollywood Gold Stakes, and added two other G2 victories to his record. In July, Express Train fought off Tripoli in the San Diego Handicap, and in December, the handsome son of Union Rags denied Hot Rod Charlie in the G2 San Antonio Stakes at the distance of a mile and a half a furlong. Back then, Express Train triumphed by a nose despite carrying more weight than the popular bay.

Because the giant horse is tough, fights, and doesn’t care much where he spends the race as basically nothing can stop him, he needs to be considered the leading victory candidate. Under Victor Espinoza, he left behind also Eight Rings (3-1) trained by Bob Baffert, who has never returned to the result he delivered as a two-year-old; however, his effort in the San Antonio Stakes earned him some respect once more.

The five-year-old horse is useful for such events, always trying enough to place at the Graded stage, which sometimes means he finishes second in the G1, sometimes he’s third in the G3. Eight Rings is just always there and needs to be counted in when it comes to snatching a good place, while his stablemate Speilberg (7-2) could be made of a similar sort.

The four-year-old colt also belonged among exciting two-year-olds, but in 2021, he didn’t display enough ability to compete with the very best. After three outings, he got some rest because his junior campaign was quite exhausting and returned in January 2022 to win an Allowance race. It’s difficult to discern what the performance means towards Saturday’s race, but he shouldn’t be discarded, rather watched closely.

Kiss Today Goodbye (15-1) can cause a surprise when the race suits him perfectly, but otherwise, he shouldn’t threaten the favourites unlike Law Professor (5-2) who carries the biggest weight together with Express Train. He’s disadvantaged due to his victory in December’s Santa Anita Mathis Mile Stakes; still, he seems good enough to overcome the weight and he could be the one fighting with Express Train for the victory instead of the Baffert boys.

The last participant we haven’t spoken of is the five-year-old American Theorem (6-1) trained by George Papaprodromou, who finished second in the G1 American Pharoah Stakes 2019 behind the already mentioned Eight Rings. Since then, he’s been out only five times to falter in the Rebel Stakes, place twice in the Allowance race where he once was only ninth, and last time out; he scored the Allowance Optional Claiming in January.

The son of American Pharoah smoothly bettered Shooters Shoot, placed in the G3 Palos Verdes Stakes, so there actually might be something to him as he’s not the usual outsider. Yet, it’s hard to picture him running down the more preferred rivals.

Our top betting pick for the San Pasqual Stakes is Express Train. He carries more than Spielberg and Eight Rings, but he also looks classier, so he should handle them

HorseJockeyHorse Racing Odds courtesy of JazzSports
Kiss Today GoodbyeAbel Cedillo+1500
Express TrainVictor Espinoza+200
American TheoremMike E. Smith+600
Eight RingsJohn R. Velazquez+300
SpielbergFlavien Prat+350
Law ProfessorJuan J. Hernandez+250

Santa Monica S

The $200,000 race is held on the dirt surface and open to four-year-old fillies and older mares. They are about to cover the distance of seven furlongs in this G2 event that also welcomes the last year’s winner, five-year-old Merneith (7-2) trained by Bob Baffert.

He saddles her again to Edwin Maldonado, who scored the race aboard her after the filly won a black-type and finished third in the G1 La Brea Stakes. However, since her victory in the Santa Monica Stakes thanks to her (more or less) front-running performance, she didn’t hit the track until January 2022. Back then, she was pointed to the Kalookan Queen Stakes, a Listed at the Santa Anita Park, where she couldn’t get past by Edgeway, who was quicker from the beginning to the very end.

Still, Merneith was returning from a long hiatus, so on Saturday, she’ll be fresher and ready to show she’s capable of big things at the G2 stage. However, her rivals look considerably strong as Bob Baffert sends in another exciting four-year-old filly named Kalypso (3-1). The daughter of Brody’s Cause gathered some fine places at the Graded scene; moreover, she scored the G2 Santa Ynez Stakes in January 2021 and in December, she successfully returned from a lengthy absence by recording her premiere G1 victory in the La Brea Stakes, leaving the second filly behind by more than four lengths.

She looked like she could handle even tougher competition. If she shows something similar on Saturday, she should be considered a victory candidate alongside Merneith and Ce Ce (3-5), who Michael McCarthy sends in. The six-year-old mare has been a joy to have in the stable, given she’s bagged three G1 wins and numerous treasured places at the Graded scene.

She’s been successful at various distances while Ce Ce achieved her most recent success among the elite at the sprinter trip in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, leaving behind like Edgeway and Gamine. Without a shadow of a doubt, Ce Ce belongs among the best older mares in the US, and when she’s feeling like it, nobody can stop her from achieving another big victory.

A remaining couple of runners, Park Avenue (6-1) and Full of Grace (30-1), shouldn’t pose a threat to more preferred contestants. The former is a smart performer, but she needs to deliver her very best effort to be taken seriously here when facing Saturday’s rivals. It’s a tough call to pick one of three excellent fillies and mares headlining the Santa Monica Stakes, but even though we adore the gutsy Ce Ce, we will go with Kalypso.

So, our top choice for the Santa Monica Stakes is Kalypso, whose victory in the La Brea Stakes was impressive, and if she continues in this stride, she should at least fight for the win on Saturday

HorseJockeyHorse Racing Odds courtesy of JazzSports
KalypsoJohn R. Velazquez+300
Ce CeVictor Espinoza+167
MerneithEdwin A. Maldonado+350
Full of GraceDiego A. Herrera+3000
Park AvenueJuan J. Hernandez+600

Thunder Road S

The first of five Graded races is a G3 event meant for four-year-old and older horses, while the purse of $100,000 is up for grabs. On the turf surface, the field of six participants will cover a mile-long trip with four-year-old Subconscious (8-5) looking primed to make amends for his run in the G1 Hollywood Derby.

In November, the Richard Mandella bound bay galloped in the fourth place, but once he was asked to pick up, he couldn’t offer anything extraordinary. In the end, he had to settle for fifth place, failing to extend his unbeaten record to fourth victories in a row as, before the loss, the smart colt scored a maiden, an Allowance race, and the G2 Twilight Derby.

Under Juan Hernandez, he seemed ready to step up the game, but the Hollywood Derby was just too much for him, so returning to the G3 stage, Subconscious should benefit from that, and we like him a lot for the Thunder Road Stakes. The rest of the field comprises older horses while three of them carry the same weight as Subconscious, including the Seabiscuit Handicap winner Count Again (5-2).

The smart performer can place in various Graded races, which makes the main threat for the favourite. Delaware (6-1) and Sniper Kitten (20-1) are both place contenders at best. Ready Soul’s (5-2) form doesn’t look appealing as well, so in terms of sparkling up a surprise, we might stick with a newcomer to the US tracks, five-year-old Hurricane Cloud (5-1).

John Sadler’s trainee was nothing special in France but let’s see how he’ll do on Saturday, given he definitely wasn’t bought just because he’s the son of Frankel. There just could be some hidden potential about him, which he’s set to show soon.

Our betting pick for the Thunder Road Stakes is Subconscious as he’s still at the beginning of his career and should be capable of bettering the mentioned rivals. 

HorseJockeyHorse Racing Odds courtesy of JazzSports
SubconsciousJuan J. Hernandez+160
Sniper KittenChristopher A. Emigh+2000
Count AgainFlavien Prat+250
Delaware (GB)Mike E. Smith+600
Ready SoulJohn R. Velazquez+250
Hurricane Cloud (GB)Umberto Rispoli+500

Las Virgenes S

Although the $200,000 dirt race was won by likes as Beholder, Songbird, or Bellafina, it was gradually downgraded from its former status of G1 to its current status of G3. In 2022, it attracted a field of five three-year-old fillies, striving to collect some points towards the Kentucky Oaks as the winner will be awarded 10 points here. On the distance of a mile, the most experienced participant is Eda trained by Bob Baffert, given she’s been out six times already.

The daughter of Munnings began her career in 2021 with a maiden victory (after its former winner was disqualified), upon which she went on to finish second in the G2 Sorrento Stakes but just by a head. When tackling the elite for the very first time, she failed to impress in the G1 Del Mar Debutante Stakes; still, Eda gave out too much of her energy too early.

Nothing of the sort happened in her three subsequent starts as she morphed all of them into victories, bagging easily a black-type win, a Listed triumph, and she crowned the season with a tight G1 success in the G1 Starlet Stakes ahead of Cairo Memories. She handles even a slightly longer distance, but the mile trip should suit her well on Sunday; still, there are five fillies facing her, including her stablemate Adare Manor (), piloted by John Velazquez.

With just three starts under her belt, the daughter of Uncle Mo finished second and fourth in maidens in 2021; however, she put up an impressive performance at the beginning of January as she destroyed the maiden field at the Santa Anita Park by 12 lengths. Because she’s about to carry less weight than Eda, she can actually be better in the final stretch. 

Adare Manor left behind also Miss Everything last time out, while Gracelund Gray ran in second in an Allowance race in January. The last participant we haven’t mentioned is Queen Of Thorns trained by Peter Eurton, who sent her to a single start at the beginning of January – to a six furlongs-long maiden at the Santa Anita Park where the daughter of Violence triumphed smoothly by eight lengths. If she delivers a similar performance on Sunday, she could threaten the Baffert duo. 

Our top betting pick for the Las Virgenes Stakes is:

Adare Manor, thanks to her dominating victory in a maiden. Her stablemate Eda has already bagged a G1 victory, but we think classier rivals are about to emerge in the three-year-old filly division, in other words, in the Road for the Kentucky Oaks division

HorseJockeyHorse Racing Odds courtesy of JazzSports
Miss EverythingDrayden Van Dyke+1200
Gracelund GrayTyler Baze+800
Adare ManorJohn R. Velazquez+120
Queen of ThornsFlavien Prat+250
EdaJuan J. Hernandez+180

Robert B Lewis

Again, the field aiming at the Santa Anita Park to show up in at the Grade scene is relatively small, consisting of just five three-year-old colts competing for the purse of $200,000 and 10 points for the Road to the Kentucky Derby in the Robert B Lewis prep race.

The Robert B Lewis is held at the distance of a mile and a half of a furlong, on the surface, and the G3 scene, still, it’s been a closely watched event as not only Pioneerof The Nile or I’llhaveanother struck gold here, but also Medina Spirit scored it in 2021 on his journey to become the Kentucky Derby winner.

Bob Baffert leads the board with nine triumphs, while he can definitely extend his record because he’s sending in two of his trainees, especially Messier. The son of Empire Maker launched his career in 2021 with a couple of runs among maidens, and as he won at the second attempt, he headlined the G3 Bob Hope Stakes at Del Mar.

After a patient ride by Flavien Prat, the big bay rallied forward in the final stretch to score his premiere Graded victory quite easily; however, he then lost to Slow Down Andy in the G2 Los Alamitos Derby. It could be said he would’ve preferred to travel differently back then; still, he didn’t lose by much, and Messier looks ready to return to winning ways on Sunday.

Without a hint of a doubt, he could be the next Bob Baffert star, yet the question is whether any earned points would be of any use to him, given Baffert’s horses are banned from running at the Churchill Downs. 

Messier’s stable-mate Wharton has recorded just one start, winning his maiden at the Santa Anita Park by more than five lengths despite facing more experienced runners. He looked a bit green but got the job done, and at first sight, there could be a bright future in front of him.

Doub O’Neill bound Happy Jack has also just one outing under his belts, causing a huge upset in a maiden over the distance of six furlongs. Sir London, trained by Simon Callaghan, has enjoyed three runs in 2021 and hasn’t been seen since, but his most recent start resulted in a 10-length victory at the Los Alamitos Racecourse, so is respected on Sunday.

The last participant of the Robert B Lewis is also the most carrying one, George Papaprodromou trained bay Cabo Spirit who has hit the track on seven occasions, bagging a maiden victory, snatching the third place in a G3 race, and last time out, he won the Listed Eddie Logan Stakes at the distance of a mile. However, he scored it on the turf surface.

Our betting pick for the Robert B Lewis Stakes is Messier, who could return to winning ways. It is possible, especially when remembering how powerful he looked in the Bob Hope Stakes

HorseJockeyHorse Racing Odds courtesy of JazzSports
MessierJohn R. Velazquez+120
Sir LondonFlavien Prat+180
Cabo SpiritVictor Espinoza+800
WhartonJuan J. Hernandez+400
Happy JackAbel Cedillo+600

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