West Coast scouting report: Derby trail continues Saturday

West Coast scouting report: Derby trail continues Saturday
Photo: Benoit Photo

The road to the 2021 Kentucky Derby via the West Coast reaches its next stop on Saturday when Santa Anita Park hosts the $100,000 Robert B. Lewis (G3) contested at 1 1/16 miles.

Each of the top four finishers in the Lewis will receive qualifying points toward this year’s Run for the Roses paid out on a scale of 10-4-2-1. Entries will be taken later on Wednesday, and the Santa Anita racing office projects a field of 10, with several of those profiled here.

Below is an updated status report on the West Coast’s leading Kentucky Derby contenders. (Best Vegas odds - sire - trainer - owner - Derby qualifying points)

The leader

Life is Good (8-1 - Into Mischief - Bob Baffert - CHC Inc., WinStar Farm - 10)
He rocketed to favoritism for the 2021 Kentucky Derby with a scintillating debut win at Del Mar and came right back to score a front-running victory when stretched around two turns in the Jan. 2 Sham Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita Park. He won the one-mile Sham by a diminishing 3/4 length, which raises distance concerns for this colt. Still, bettors in last weekend’s Kentucky Derby Future Wager tabbed him the 7-1 favorite among individual 3-year-olds. He is possible for the San Felipe Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita on March 6.

First tier

Medina Spirit (60-1 - Protonico - Bob Baffert - Zedan Racing Stable’s - 4)
A debut winner by three lengths on Dec. 11 at Los Alamitos, he was sent straight to the one-mile Sham Stakes (G3), where he mounted a late rally to be beaten just 3/4 of a length by Life is Good. Given the running style displayed in his first two starts, this colt figures to thrive with added real estate going forward. Closing at 24-1 in the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, a big performance in Saturday’s Robert B. Lewis (G3) could propel him to the head of the class on the West Coast.

Hot Rod Charlie (60-1 - Oxbow - Doug O’Neill - Roadrunner Racing, Boat Racing, Strauss Bros. Racing - 8)
He graduated during the Santa Anita fall meet when finally trying two turns on dirt. He reeled in Parnelli (see below) to win that heat, and then came right back to nearly spring a 94-1 upset when a close second to Essential Quality in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He recently closed Pool 2 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager at 40-1. The $110,000 auction purchase is scheduled to make his sophomore bow in Saturday’s Robert B. Lewis (G2).

The Great One (45-1 - Nyquist - Doug O’Neill - ERJ Racing, Train Wreck Al Racing Stables, Niall Brenna, Tom Fritz, William Strauss - 4)
The Louisiana-bred has emerged as promising contender out west after being beaten just a nose by Spielberg in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) and coming back last Saturday to graduate by 14 lengths against maidens at Santa Anita. The emerging colt is by one of two Kentucky Derby winners trained by O’Neil.

Spielberg (100-1 - Union Rags - Bob Baffert - SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Golconda Stables, Siena Farm, Robert Masterson - 12)
After a busy 2-year-old campaign that included six starts and a win in the Los Alamitos Futurity, he is expected to make his 3-year-old bow in Saturday’s Robert B. Lewis. The colt closed pool 2 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager at 47-1.

Get Her Number (250-1 - Dialed In - Peter Miller - Gary Barber - 10)
After making his first two starts on turf at Del Mar in late summer, he was switched to dirt and promptly became a Grade 1 winner when scoring in the Sept. 26 American Pharoah (G1) at Santa Anita. There could be some upside with this colt, who after a break returned to light training in late December and had his first work last Saturday. Miller said a start in early March, likely the San Felipe (G2), is a potential target.

Second tier

Concert Tour (16-1 - Street Sense - Bob Baffert - Gary and Mary West - 0)
Out of a Tapit mare, this stoutly bred colt served notice with an eye-catching debut win by 3 1/2 lengths while kept largely under wraps at Santa Anita on Jan. 15. The effort was enough to draw immediate interest from futures bettors in Vegas, as the above odds indicate. With multiple horses on the Derby trail again, it remains to be seen how Baffert will divvy up the prep assignments and who possibly ships out of town.

Wipe the Slate (125-1 - Nyquist - Doug O’Neill - Reddam Racing -0)
He was no match for Life is Good on debut at Del Mar in the fall but came right back with a powerful draw-off victory by 3 1/4 lengths when going seven furlongs against maidens at Santa Anita on Dec. 26. He is slated for a first stakes test in the Lewis.

Rombauer (150-1 - Twirling Candy - Michael McCarthy - John Fradkin, Diane Fradkin - 4)
Finished second to Get Her Number in the Sept. 26 American Pharoah (G1) at Santa Anita to tally on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard, then returned with a rallying fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. After a brief freshening, he has worked five times for his sophomore bow.

Others to watch

Bezos (20-1 - Empire Maker - Bob Baffert - SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stable - 0)
Some eyebrows were raised when this colt — who has yet to have a start — was listed as an individual betting interest in pool 2 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager. However, bettors affirmed the committee’s decision by supporting him to the tune of 26-1, which tied for the 10th-shortest odds of 23 horses listed. Out of an A.P Indy mare, he boasts a classic pedigree top and bottom, and a bullet five-furlong gate drill in 59.40 last Saturday heightens the anticipation.

Roman Centurian (65-1 - Empire Maker - Simon Callaghan - Don Alberto Stable, Qatar Racing - 0)
In his second try against maidens on Jan. 3 at Santa Anita, the $550,000 auction purchase had just one horse beat after a half mile before uncorking a rally and drawing off to win easily by 3 3/4 lengths. Out of the Bernardini mare Spare Change — herself a daughter of Grade 1-winning router Finder’s Fee — the colt is bred top and bottom for classic distance. He is expected to get his first stakes test in Saturday’s Robert B. Lewis.

Freedom Fighter (250-1 - Violence - Bob Baffert - SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Golconda Stables, Siena Farm, Robert Masterson - 0)
Unraced since a debut win at Del Mar in August, he has been training steadily since early December. Most recently, he has a pair of fast five-furlong drills on the tab — including a bullet two weeks ago — indicating he could be nearing a return.

Parnelli (200-1 - Quality Road - John Shirreffs - CRK Stable - 2)
He was never a factor when checking in third, beaten six lengths by Life is Good in the Sham. This colt did display promise when graduating by 5 3/4 lengths at Del Mar and has a Kentucky Derby-winning trainer in his corner, but he would need to take a huge step forward next out to be a serious contender.

Red Flag (150-1 - Tamarkuz - John Shirreffs - Jerry and Tina Moss - 1)
An impressive 7 1/4-length winner of the Bob Hope (G3) at Del Mar in the fall, he came back to be a disappointing fourth as the odds-on favorite in the Los Alamitos Futurity when going two turns for the first time. Distance is a question with this colt, given that performance and his pedigree. He will try to solidify a spot on the Kentucky Derby trail in the Lewis with the Derby-winning trainer in tow.

Waspirant (200-1 - Union Rags - John Shirreffs - Marty Wygod, Pam Wygod and Lessee - 2)
Out of multiple Grade 1 winner Life is Sweet, he was no factor when finishing fourth in the Sham after a 13-week layoff. He is also expected to wheel back in the Robert B. Lewis. While the colt is obviously bred to be any kind — and is eligible to move forward with recency — he will need to get going if hoping to make the Kentucky Derby starting gate.

Remaining West Coast preps

Robert B. Lewis (G3) - Santa Anita - Jan. 30 (10-4-2-1)

El Camino Real Derby - Golden Gate - Feb. 13 (10-4-2-1)

San Felipe (G2) - Santa Anita - March 6 (50-20-10-5)

Santa Anita Derby (G1) - Santa Anita - April 3 (100-40-20-10) 

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