01/31/2013 3:18PM

Santa Anita: Flashback steps up in compact Robert B. Lewis Stakes

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ARCADIA, Calif. – Flashback was starting to jog back to the barn following a routine gallop at Santa Anita on Thursday morning when a misbehaving horse came close to brushing him right in front of the grandstand, where trainer Bob Baffert was watching.

“Get him out of there,” Baffert shouted to exercise rider Manny Avila, his voice a mixture of anxiety and jocularity.

“Whenever he’s out there, I just want to get it over with,” Baffert said.

There’s good reason for Baffert’s nervous anticipation. Flashback was a dazzling winner of his debut Dec. 8 at Betfair Hollywood Park, and on the short list of California’s top prospects for the May 4 Kentucky Derby, he is – despite his inexperience – among the leaders.

His profile could rise further Saturday, when Flashback goes straight from that maiden win – in a sprint – into a two-turn graded stakes race, the Grade 2, $200,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes at 1 1/16 miles Santa Anita.

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

“I’m looking forward to it,” Baffert said. “From here on out, it’s a critical time for these horses. There’s very little margin for error.”

The Lewis came up well for Flashback. Only three others entered – including Den’s Legacy from Baffert’s barn – and Flashback looks to be the controlling speed. That’s an advantage for the least-experienced horse in the race.

“It’s not like there’s 12 in there, where something could happen,” Baffert said.

Flashback, a gray colt by Tapit, was so well-regarded for his debut that he was even-money in a nine-horse field. Breaking from the outside stall in the seven-furlong race, he had a trouble-free trip and drew clear with style in the final furlong.

“We’ve always been pretty high on him,” Baffert said. “He’s been hyped-up pretty good now. I think he’ll be fine stretching out – he’s got a pretty good mind – but you never know until they do it.”

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

In contrast to Flashback, Den’s Legacy has plenty of experience. The Lewis marks the 10th start of his career, and he comes off a second-place finish to the highly regarded Goldencents in the Sham Stakes on Jan. 5.

“He’s a tough horse,” Baffert said. “He keeps rolling right along. He ran a game race to Goldencents. That horse could be the best 3-year-old in the country. He’s fast.”

Goldencents is sitting this race out, awaiting next month’s San Felipe, but his trainer, Doug O’Neill, has the likely second choice in He’s Had Enough, who was second to champion Shanghai Bobby in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Nov. 3. In his only start since then, He’s Had Enough was fifth Dec. 15 in the CashCall Futurity, a race in which Den’s Legacy was third. Mario Gutierrez will ride He’s Had Enough for the fourth straight race on Saturday.

“He’s doing well, but it looks like Baffert’s going to control the pace,” O’Neill said as he watched his horses train Thursday morning. “I was disappointed with his last race. He doesn’t bring it every day.

“The good thing is Mario has gotten to know He’s Had Enough well. And, coming into this race, we’ve asked more of him in his works. We’ve been much more strict. We’ll see if that helps.”

The race longshot is Little Jerry, who was eighth in the CashCall Futurity after a late-running win against maidens in his debut at Hollywood Park on Nov. 18. Both those races were on Cushion Track.

“He didn’t run very well, but he came back with a bunch of that synthetic stuff in his face,” trainer Richard Baltas said. “He was coughing, had mucus. He’s been working really well since. This is a good spot to try him. Four horses, on dirt.”

The Lewis is a Road to the Derby qualifying race, awarding points to the top four on a 10-4-2-1 basis.

Mark Scheider More than 1 year ago
Let me save any of you knuckle heads money that are still on Hes had Enough. He ISNT Ill Have Another. Thats two straight races where he was beaten to a pulp by Kevin Krigger and the horse doesnt respond. HE doesnt want to play, HE doesnt want to pass in the stretch. HEEEEES HAD ENOUGH!
John Stevelberg More than 1 year ago
This race is why CD needs to tweak their system. It's a shame more common sense wasn't in play when their system was devised.
Mark Scheider More than 1 year ago
To piggy back on your comment, I will add that the point totals should be awarded by the amount of entries in the stake. ie: 4 participants = 4 Derby points awarded to first. 7 participants = 7 Derby points awarded to first. 10 participants = 10 Derby points awarded to first. In essence, come Derby Day horses will earn berths based on how many horses they actually beat to get there. Strong 3rd place finishes arent good enough. Last season, IHA went STREAKING into the Derby. He won major races. He would have earned his berth into the Derby. THAT separates the champs from the chumps. If four horses enter and owners dont want to waste a start for a measly 4 points, then I guess the racing office better start loading gates or cancel the race due to lack of interest.
JoyJackson21 More than 1 year ago
Although there are only four horses in this race, I'm looking forward to seeing this race. There is merit in the argument that a lot of the top horses are in the Baffert and O'Neill barns and they are placing their horses strategically in other Road to the Derby races to make sure their racers don't cancel out other racers in their own barns. Many are waiting for the San Felipe. This race is still significant, though. I'll Have Another announced to the world in this race last year that he was ready to grab the mantle of fame in this race, and this race could be the kick-off point for another horse as well. The tongue-in-cheek named He's Had Enough being in this race is an inspired (and very amusing) move. I can't help but smile at that. Good luck, good fortune & excellent health before and after this race to all participants. Let's see some great racing by everyone!
myjockwon More than 1 year ago
cause the owners have given all there 2 yo's to Baffert, Sadler and O Neill thats one reason they have short fields on the west coast in these races, like no one else out there is qualified.
Michael Butts More than 1 year ago
How can they award 10 Derby points to the winner of a 4 horse race? Last place gets 1 point. Yeah, this is much better than graded stakes earnings.
cody e More than 1 year ago
Im sure when they set the points up, they didnt know only 4 horses would enter...
Mark Scheider More than 1 year ago
This race pretty much put one horse into the gates at Churchill that I wont even look at. Look at it positively.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Watch Baffert, will lose this race when he has 50% of the runners in here.
mdavis8357 More than 1 year ago
Idiots such as yourself should remain anonymous. Aptly named.
Jason Marcinek More than 1 year ago
75% dumbass
Craig Cantrell More than 1 year ago
Horse Racing is now run by cheaters and medically enhanced performers...All sports these days are now a complete joke and a total embarrassment to what these great games used to be...just like the culture we now live in:(
mdavis8357 More than 1 year ago
That's the spirit. Do you go to the airport and "boo" bad landings?
Forego137 More than 1 year ago
Talk about being bitter, I sure would hate to be your neighbor or a co-worker of yours. You should call yourself "Hating Life". Very sad comment seek help ASAP
Big Jeff More than 1 year ago
Well lucky for us you have made up your mind about this sport and we won't have to read your idiotic comments any longer.....BYE
catinabox More than 1 year ago
then why are you still following it and posting useless comments here? Go away.
Mark Scheider More than 1 year ago
What does your statement have to do with a 4 horse field? Get a new story to whine about.
akhiym james More than 1 year ago
Small field in a key derby prep what a joke lol
Guy More than 1 year ago
EXACTLY
Mark Scheider More than 1 year ago
My friend, look at it in a positive light, the race doesnt make any real threats for the Derby. You shouldnt be looking at any of these horse come May. Now, you know. Great race!!! 4 horses that wont get looked at for me.