01/27/2012 3:41PM

Santa Anita: Baffert points Liaison, Sky Kingdom to Robert Lewis Stakes

Benoit & Associates
Liaison, winner of the CashCall Futurity, is headed to the Robert Lewis.

ARCADIA, Calif. – The depth of trainer Bob Baffert’s 3-year-old division will lead to multiple starters for the Hall of Famer in the $200,000 Robert Lewis Stakes next Saturday at Santa Anita.

Baffert will run Liaison, winner of the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park on Dec. 17, and Sky Kingdom, who was fourth in the CashCall and winner of an allowance race here Jan. 12.

On Friday, Sky Kingdom worked five furlongs in 58.40 seconds, the fastest of 67 recorded works at the distance. Ideally, Baffert said, he would have more racing options for his top Triple Crown hopes.

“I hate to run them against each other,” Baffert said.

Liaison worked six furlongs in 1:11.80 at Santa Anita on Thursday, the fastest of 18 recorded works at the distance.

“He just keeps moving forward,” Baffert said of Liaison.

The Grade 2 Lewis Stakes is run over 1 1/16 miles and leads to the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 7. Other candidates for the Lewis are Rousing Sermon and Empire Way, second and fifth in the CashCall Futurity; Groovin’ Solo, a maiden race winner on Dec. 30; and I’ll Have Another, unraced since a sixth in the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga in September.

Empire Way worked six furlongs in 1:14.80 at Hollywood Park on Thursday. The Lewis will be his first start on a dirt track after three starts on a synthetic track at Hollywood Park.

“I think I’m right where I want to be,” said Mike Harrington, who trains Empire Way. “I don’t know whether he’ll be better on dirt, but I think he’ll like it.”

The Lewis is one of four major stakes next Saturday and Sunday.

Tapizar, winner of the Grade 2 San Fernando Stakes on Jan. 14, will be a heavy favorite in the $200,000 Strub Stakes for 4-year-olds over 1 1/8 miles. He may face Indian Winter, Prayer for Relief, and Ultimate Eagle. Mr. Commons is the top contender in the $150,000 Arcadia Stakes over a mile on turf Saturday. Mr. Commons won the Grade 2 Sir Beaufort Stakes on Dec. 26.

Game On Dude, second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs in November, makes his 2012 debut in Sunday’s $200,000 San Antonio Stakes for older horses over 1 1/8 miles. Game On Dude worked six furlongs in 1:11 on Friday, the fastest of 26 works at the distance.

24 seeking TOC board seats

A list of 24 owners and trainers has been nominated for the 15 seats available in a forthcoming election for the board of directors of the Thoroughbred Owners of California.

The TOC, the state’s official representative of Thoroughbred horsemen in the state, is reconfiguring its board of directors to expand the number of owner-trainers from three to six.

The nominated candidates include eight trainers – Bob Baffert, Jim Cassidy, Gloria Haley, Mike Harrington, Ron McAnally, Ed Moger, John Sadler, and Kathy Walsh.

They are joined on the nomination list by owners Madeline Auerbach, Dennis Cardoza, Will Deburgh, Mark Dedomenico, Dennis Grenier, Allan Kirkwood, George Krikorian, Kevin Nish, Jack Owens, Pete Parrella, Mike Pegram, Keith Pronske, George Schmitt, Pablo Suarez, George Todaro, and David Wilson.

Pegram is the current chairman of the TOC and replaced Owens in that role. Wilson is president of the California Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, an organization of owners and trainers formed last year with the intent of seeking greater representation on the TOC board.

The ballot could be expanded to include owners and trainers who gather sufficient signatures via petition. The election will run from Feb. 15 to March 15. The new board will be formed in April.