01/31/2013 4:13PM

Brad Free: Robert Lewis comes up short in entrants, long in story lines


ARCADIA, Calif. – The sun came out and the handicapping notebook filled up fast, with stuff like this . . .

◗ Average field size this winter at Santa Anita is a healthy 8.35 per race. Nice job by the racing office. In graded stakes, average field size is 6.80 and dropping – only four entered the Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis on Saturday; just five in the Grade 2 San Antonio on Sunday.

[ROBERT B. LEWIS: Get Santa Anita PPs, watch Saturday's card live]

◗ The widely touted 3-year-old Flashback, 1 for 1, is most likely winner of the 1 1/16-mile Lewis. Flashback figures to make an uncontested lead and be gone. Some bettors may enjoy backing short prices in small fields, but from a value perspective, the fourth race Saturday is a pass.

◗ Little Jerry has an upset chance in the Lewis, despite habitual slow starts. He did it again Wednesday morning at Betfair Hollywood Park, where trainer Richard Baltas is based. Little Jerry popped out of the gate, tardily as usual. The Lewis is the third start for the good-looking Candy Ride colt who wants longer. Baltas: “He. Will. Run. All. Day.”

◗ After a series of bad trips in big fields for He’s Had Enough, it will be interesting to see if he can get a clean trip in the four-horse Lewis. He drew post 4 of 4; blinkers on. Warning: Everyone who saw the colt’s most recent workout knocked it.

◗ Saturday is big for 3-year-olds, coast to coast. At Aqueduct in the Grade 3 Withers, Long River adds Lasix trying to knock off 102-Beyer maiden winner Revolutionary. Long River’s trainer, Kiaran McLaughlin, is 4 for 8 with first-time Lasix the past six weeks.

◗ Euro-hype might have made Strong Suit an underlay Saturday at Santa Anita. That was before he drew wide in the Grade 2 Arcadia at a mile on turf. Strong Suit drew 14 of 14. Not much worse than Suggestive Boy, who drew 13 yet is still the pick to win his first race in three months. Trained by Ron McAnally, Suggestive Boy returns fresh, absent hype.

◗ One might wonder how Suggestive Boy can possibly win a mile turf race from post 13. That is a darn good question. Fair odds for the increased risk would be 8-1. That price might not be available.

◗ Comeback jockey Gary Stevens has found business slow (16 mounts, 1 win, 6 seconds). He may ride this spring in Kentucky. Meanwhile, Stevens has worked Strong Suit regularly for his own comeback Saturday, though the horse is entered has European jockey Jamie Spencer named to ride. If for some reason Spencer does not make the trip, no worries. Stevens is open.

◗ Good, creative move this winter by Santa Anita and the Thoroughbred Owners of California to offer a 20 percent bonus on pick-six winners on track (non-carryover days). Just a little surprised the promotion was not met with more enthusiasm.

◗ As a bettor that benefited from a disqualification Jan. 27 in race 9, let me just say that upset winner Flew Flicker did not have to come down. It was a borderline call, at most.

◗ It makes sense for owner B.J. Wright to ship Ultimate Eagle to Gulfstream Park for the Grade 1 Donn. It makes less sense trying to make a dirt horse out of a veteran turf horse. That is the curious plan for 7-year-old Jeranimo, who will soon leave California to join trainer Chad Brown. Good luck with that surface change.

◗ Not everyone plays the 14 percent pick five every day. But most bettors agree – if the low-takeout wager was removed from any Southern California wagering menu, it would not be good. Just saying.

◗ If the rumors about Keeneland returning to a dirt surface turned out true, you’d have to wonder – would Del Mar be far behind?

◗ Speaking of synthetic surfaces, glad to see New York abandoned the idea of a synthetic surface at Aqueduct almost as quickly as the hair-brained idea was hatched. Good grief.

◗ The NTRA Moment of the Year was . . . a horse that got sick, then got better? Good for Paynter. But to honor his recovery as 2012 Moment of the Year was Internet fantasy. Do people have nothing better to do than react to Twitter? #getalife

◗ Memorable moments in racing most always occur between the rails, such as two thrilling stretch runs last spring between I’ll Have Another and Bodemeister in the Triple Crown.

◗ Amazombie will have his first comeback work this weekend, but the work will not make the tab, and not because trainer Bill Spawr works horses in the dark. The reason the Amazombie work will not be recorded is because it is only a quarter-mile. Stay tuned.

◗ I sure know how to pick my rare spots to “wheel.” In a Jan. 26 pick four at Santa Anita, I used “all” to catch Teddy’s Promise ($5) in the Santa Monica, and later “all” at Sam Houston to catch Icon Ike ($7.40) in the Champion Energy Services. What a genius.

◗ The good 3-year-old Demonic worked a half-mile Tuesday. The work was 46.80, but visually it looked like 47.80. It was a fine work, the first for the Derby candidate since a debut victory Jan. 13. But does Demonic have a route pedigree? Good question. Sired by Bernardini, he is out of a Meadowlake mare whose limit was 1 1/16 miles.

◗ Those that missed Jack Disney’s “retirement race” last weekend can catch the popular publicist/sportswriter Saturday in race 7 at Santa Anita when Ivanho goes first off the claim by Disney’s Indizguys Stable and trainer Mike Mitchell. Who knows? Maybe Ivanho is the next On the Acorn, claimer-turned-graded winner for Indizguys and Mitchell.