02/06/2017 4:01PM

Road to the Derby: Robert B. Lewis analysis

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Emily Shields
Royal Mo turns for home in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes on Saturday.

Grade 3, $150,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes; 1 1/16 miles; Santa Anita; Feb. 4, 2017 
(10 Derby qualifying points for a win, 4 for second, 2 for third, 1 for fourth)

Winner: Royal Mo, by Uncle Mo
Trainer: John Shirreffs
Jockey: Victor Espinoza
Owner: Jerry and Ann Moss
Beyer Speed Figure: 93

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ROYAL MO took a major step forward in this race, as he produced a Beyer Figure 20 points superior to the best he received at age 2 while making his stakes debut and his first start against winners. He gives Shirreffs, Espinoza, and the Mosses a second Derby prospect, following the more highly regarded and accomplished Gormley.

Royal Mo has been held in high regard by his connections. He’s a big, powerful colt who likely was not suited by the sprint distances he was asked to compete in to begin his career. But he ran well in those two races, which were a means to an end, and he has improved since being sent around two turns in his third start.

This was not a particularly strong field, though. Royal Mo will face far better in his next start. But he is heading in the right direction, and at this time of year, that’s a significant part of the equation.

In the Lewis, Royal Mo had to be sent along from his inside draw. Espinoza told me after the race he’d have preferred to be in a stalking position and not rush Royal Mo, but the draw dictated tactics. Royal Mo hugged the rail and led into the first turn while setting sensible fractions, with IRAP lapped on him. When Irap tried to get on terms on the far turn, Espinoza sent Royal Mo along, and he maintained then increased his lead to come home a comfortable winner while looking like he’d have no trouble handling more distance.

Irap, who finished second, is still a maiden, but was a distant second behind Mastery in the Los Alamitos Futurity back in December. He added blinkers for this race, and was quite keen the first half of the race. He drifted out a bit into the first turn, then tried to take on Royal Mo despite jockey Mario Gutierrez trying to get him to settle down. Irap finally came to hand about the half-mile pole, took on Royal Mo in earnest on the far turn, could not get past Royal Mo and was no match through the lane but did hold off SHEER FLATTERY.

Sheer Flattery, who was third, was fanned four paths wide around the first turn, slipped inside DANGERFIELD into the backstretch, advanced despite Dangerfield being ridden along to try and trap him, saved ground on the far turn, was in an ideal spot heading into the lane, but didn’t really finish off his race with any enthusiasm. At the least, he should have caught Irap, who did the dirty work.

TERM OF ART, who was fourth, lacked speed per usual, saved ground around the first turn, was outrun down the backstretch and trailed, was asked for his best with three furlongs to go, was fanned widest of all outside Dangerfield into the lane, and went evenly through the lane. He needs a race to collapse to be effective.

Dangerfield, who finished last of five, was carried to the three path around the first turn by Irap, drifted off the rail into the backstretch, was asked aggressively to try and go with Sheer Flattery heading down the backstretch after Kent Desormeaux twice looked back for Sheer Flattery, remained slightly in front of Sheer Flattery until the far turn, then began to tire while drifting out.