02/02/2012 3:46PM

Santa Anita: Heading into Lewis, Liaison 'keeps on winning'

Benoit & Associates
Liaison, with Rafael Bejarano riding, wins the CashCall Futurity.

Liaison is not the typical offspring of Indian Charlie, says someone who should know, Bob Baffert, who trained Indian Charlie and now has Liaison. And while that might not have made Liaison the most precocious of runners, it may serve him well in the long run. And the runs for Liaison are going to get longer in the next few months.

After assuming the top spot among the local 3-year-old class of 2012 with his victory in the CashCall Futurity on Dec. 17, Liaison makes his first start of this year, en route to a desired spot in the Santa Anita Derby and then the Kentucky Derby, in the Grade 2, $200,000 Robert Lewis Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita. The Lewis is at 1 1/16 miles, the same distance at which Liaison won the CashCall Futurity and Real Quiet Stakes at Hollywood Park. And Liaison owns a victory at Santa Anita, in a maiden race last October.

So, Liaison comes into the Lewis riding a three-race win streak. And he has turned in a sharp series of recent works at Santa Anita in preparation for this race.

“He’s really developed,” Baffert said Thursday morning. “He keeps on winning, which is the sign of a good horse.”

The Lewis is the sixth race on a 10-race card - beginning at 12:30 p.m. Pacific time - that features two other Grade 2 stakes. Mr. Commons, a powerful winner of the Sir Beaufort on opening day Dec. 26, takes on the classy European invader Pathfork in the $150,000 Arcadia for turf milers in the third race. And in the eighth race, Tapizar and Ultimate Eagle meet Baffert’s duo of Jaycito and Prayer for Relief in the $200,000 Strub for 4-year-olds.

Baffert is doubling up in the Lewis, too. He also will send out Sky Kingdom, who was fourth in the CashCall Futurity and then received additional experience when winning an allowance race last month at Santa Anita. Liaison is the farther along of the two, and will be the shorter price. After losing his debut against maidens at Del Mar going a mile, he has not lost.

“He’s not your typical Indian Charlie, blessed with brilliant speed. He’s got a lot of Victory Gallop in him,” Baffert said, referring to Liaison’s damsire. “He’s not speed crazy. That’s why I ran him long in his debut.”

Sky Kingdom fell well off the pace in the CashCall Futurity before finishing well for fourth. He has won both times that Martin Garcia has been aboard, and Garcia is back for the Lewis following his easy allowance win.

“He sort of wrapped up on him early,” Baffert said, referring to Garcia. “I’d have liked to have seen him ride him out a little more. He’s doing really well. I sort of have my two ace pitchers in there. But it’s a pretty good field. It’s going to come down to racing luck.”

If so, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer probably figures some is due to come his way with Rousing Sermon, who came flying late to finish second to Liaison in the CashCall Futurity after a wide trip. Rousing Sermon also was second to Liaison in the Real Quiet.

“He’s been doing real well since his last race, both in his training and his workouts,” Hollendorfer said. “He’s made steady progress with his numbers.”

Rousing Sermon has gone forward with his Beyer Speed Figures in every start, and recorded a 91 last time out.

“We’re looking for better efforts from him in the future,” Hollendorfer said. “But you know all us trainers, that’s what we’re hoping for this time of year.”

There are five others in the Lewis, including Empire Way, a full brother to champion filly Royal Delta who was fifth in the CashCall Futurity, and I’ll Have Another, who finished second last summer at Del Mar in the Best Pal before a poor try in the slop at Saratoga in the Hopeful.

Empire Way was making his first start around two turns in the Cash Call Futurity, and it was only the third race of his career, so he still has plenty of upside. He has worn front leg wraps in all three of his races.

I’ll Have Another is trying two turns for the first time, and has not raced for five months.

Isn’t He Clever ships in from Sunland Park, where he won the Riley Allison Futurity by nearly 12 lengths. With his rail draw and speed in sprints, he figures to be forwardly placed.

Chips All In also should be up close early following his victory on grass in the Eddie Logan on Dec. 31. He has won 4 of 5 starts, including on turf and synthetic.

Groovin Solo beat maidens in his last start. He did not get a fair chance in the CashCall Futurity, in which he had a rein break before the race was half over.

Robert B. Lewis S. (G2), Post Time: 3:05 PT Saturday

Purse: $200,000; 1 1/16 miles





ML Odds


Isn't He Clever

H. Dominguez

C. Nakatani




B. Baffert

R. Bejarano



Groovin' Solo

M. Cho

V. Espinoza



I'll Have Another

D. O'Neill

M. Gutierrez



Sky Kingdom

B. Baffert

M. Garcia



Rousing Sermon

J. Hollendorfer

J. Talamo



Empire Way

M. Harrington

J. Rosario



Chips All In

J. Mullins

A. Quinonez