02/02/2013 7:09PM

Santa Anita: Flashback's speed makes up for lack of experience in Lewis

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Flashback streaks home a clear winner in the Lewis under jockey Julien Leparoux.

ARCADIA, Calif. – In a race tailor-made for his front-running style, Flashback proved yet again that talent trumps experience by running away  from his three rivals in the Grade 2, $196,000 Robert Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita on Saturday, firmly establishing himself as one of the leading Kentucky Derby contenders on the West Coast.

Flashback only had a debut win against maidens to his credit, in a sprint race nearly two months ago at Betfair Hollywood Park. He was making his stakes debut in the 1 1/16-mile Lewis, and was stretching out around two turns, but he had a distinct pace advantage, and he made full use of it.

Flashback ($3) set easy fractions of 24.17 seconds for the opening quarter and 48.69 seconds for a half-mile – the slowest half-mile fraction of the meet at the distance – then threw a 23.48 third quarter at his rivals before drawing clear to a 6 1/4-length victory in 1:42.95 for 1 1/16 miles on the fast main track.

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

Bob Baffert trains Flashback, and he swept the exacta when the consistent Den’s Legacy rallied for second, a half-length in front of He’s Had Enough. Little Jerry trailed.

“He’s still a little green, but it was an easy race,” said jockey Julien Leparoux, who has ridden Flashback in both his starts. “If he keeps improving, I think he’s got a bright future. He’s going to improve off this race.”

Flashback, a colt by Tapit, was purchased as a weanling for $260,000 by owners Gary and Mary West.

“He’s always shown us he’s a very talented horse,” Baffert said. “We were hoping he’d do something like that. I think he’ll get something out of the race. As far as distance, that shouldn’t be a problem, and he’s got tactical speed.”

Flashback is likely to race twice more here this meet, including in the Grade 1, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 6.

“The last prep is so important. You have to run well,” Baffert said. “It’s still early. It’s still pre-season right now. As he goes on, he’s going to have to run against better horses – which hopefully will be just mine.”

- additional reporting by Brad Free