Among this weekend’s trio of Kentucky Derby preps, Santa Anita’s Grade 3, $150,000 Robert B. Lewis takes a back seat to the Holy Bull and Withers. Not only did the race draw a small field, but it also lacks a potential star such as Classic Empire or even El Areeb. What this race does have is an evenly matched field in which each of the five participants has a legitimate chance to come away victorious.
The TimeformUS Pace Projector is predicting a situation that favors runners on or near the lead. While this race lacks a confirmed front-runner, the Pace Projector indicates that Royal Mo (#1) is the most likely beneficiary of the soft pace scenario. Victor Espinoza figures to send this colt to the front from his rail post in an attempt to wire the field, just as he did in his maiden win last time out. However, horses like Irap (#2) and Sheer Flattery (#5) should be tracking within range of the leader, applying pressure throughout.
Let’s go through the field:
#1, ROYAL MO (5-2): This son of Uncle Mo ran well in his debut, dueling for the lead before holding on decently in the final furlong to be second. Yet it was his second start that caught the attention of racing fans looking for signs of the next Derby contender. Breaking from an outside post in a large field, he was off slowly and spotted the leaders nearly 15 lengths while moving down the backstretch. Most young horses, especially those who showed speed in their only prior start, would have been discouraged. However, Royal Mo proceeded to launch a prolonged move from the back of the pack, passing 11 rivals as he eventually got up for second. That race did feature a fast pace (color-coded red in TimeformUS PPs), but I would take nothing away from Royal Mo’s performance.
He followed that up with a workmanlike win at odds of 4-5 when stretched out to a mile in his next start. He showed speed again that day and was able to outstay his rivals through the stretch, even as those who had been chasing him early faded in the late stages. This horse has always been cut out to be a good one, and it seems like he’s just now putting it all together. The Pace Projector is predicting that he should be well positioned to lead this field all the way. In a race where others have had more chances, I’d lean toward this up-and-coming colt. He has already run fast enough to win and appears to still be improving.
#2, IRAP (3-1): He’s the lone maiden in the field, but he might actually have the best chance of the three Doug O’Neill trainees. He easily defeated his stablemate Dangerfield in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity two back. Irap then disappointed as the favorite in a maiden race, losing to Sheer Flattery. It’s possible that he did not care for the slop that day since his best race did come over a fast track. I’m encouraged that he does possess some tactical speed, but I still prefer the new face drawn to his inside.
#3, DANGERFIELD (7-2): A minor stakes winner at Turf Paradise, he returned to finish third in two straight graded stakes races – the Delta Jackpot and Los Alamitos Futurity. That kind of résumé should make him the horse to beat against this underwhelming group. However, that list of accomplishments makes it sound like this horse has accomplished more than he actually has. After all, the Delta Jackpot was hardly the strongest graded stakes run last fall, and there just wasn’t much quality behind the winning favorite, Gunnevera. He then was soundly beaten not only by Mastery but also by his lightly regarded stablemate Irap in the Futurity. He’s just a bit slow, and I don’t know how much improvement we can expect out of a runner who’s already making his seventh career start.
#4, TERM OF ART (9-2): This colt’s late-running style could put him at a serious disadvantage in this race. He should benefit from some class relief after facing top California 3-year-olds Gormley and American Anthem last time. However, like stablemate Dangerfield, his speed figures are on the slow side, and his lone stakes win came against weaker company. I prefer others.
#5, SHEER FLATTERY (2-1): This Flatter colt could be the main danger to Royal Mo. He showed signs of promise when finishing a good second behind the talented Mastery in his second start, earning a field-best 103 TimeformUS Speed Figure. A slow start compromised him in his subsequent effort, but it was a different story when they finally stretched him out in distance last time. He was able to race closer to the pace and then gamely held on to win after sweeping to the lead coming off the far turn.
The only question that remains is whether the sloppy, sealed racetrack moved him up last time. I don’t doubt that he can handle a fast track as well, but I also don’t think he’s going to be much of a price here.
The two most likely winners appear to be recent maiden graduates Royal Mo (#1) and Sheer Flattery (#5). Of the two, I prefer Royal Mo. This colt has handled every challenge thrown at him in his short career, and the Pace Projector suggests that he will be the beneficiary of a favorable pace scenario.
Exacta: 1 with 2,5
Trifecta: 1 with 2,5 with ALL