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I Will Score faces distance test

ARCADIA, Calif. -- Proven distance form will meet keen sprint speed when Mor Spirit, considered one of California's leading candidates for the Kentucky Derby, takes on I Will Score as seven 3-year-olds try to keep their Derby dreams alive Saturday in the Grade 3, $150,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes (:: Santa Anita: Buy PPs, watch Saturday's card live) over 1-1/16 miles at Santa Anita.

Mor Spirit won the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity in his last start and owns two wins and a second in his three tries around two turns. But he will have to run down a razor-sharp I Will Score, who stretches out around two turns following a pair of sprint wins.

"I think he's a promising horse. We want to give him a chance in here and see how he'll do," Jerry Hollendorfer, the trainer of I Will Score, said Thursday at Santa Anita. "I think he will stretch out."

I Will Score won his debut at Los Alamitos in September, then was idle until winning a first-level allowance here five weeks ago. One of his rivals in that race, Uncle Lino, is back for this.

"I never did think the other horses were going to get by him," Hollendorfer said. "He dug in pretty good."

Mor Spirit is a long-striding sort who appreciated the elongated stretch at Los Alamitos when winning the Futurity. Though he has won at a mile and 1 1/16 miles, he looks as though more distance will be even better for him.

The Lewis offers 17 points overall toward a berth in the May 7 Kentucky Derby, with 10 points to the winner. It goes as race 4 on the nine-race card and thus kicks off the pick six.

Key Contenders

ROBERT LEWIS, RACE 4

I Will Score, by Roman Ruler

Last 2 Beyers: 88-80

He was forced to roll from the start in his last race owing to his rail draw, and similar tactics likely will be used here, for he has an inside draw and more natural speed than any of his rivals.

Mor Spirit, by Eskendereya

Last 3 Beyers: 88-85-92

The deserving favorite based on his win in the Los Alamitos Futurity and second-place finish in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs, there's a bit of a cloud hanging over the Los Alamitos Futurity result, as runner-up Toews On Ice, his stablemate, came back and ran poorly in the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn last month.

Under the conditions of the race, he has to give I Will Score five pounds, 124-119.

Let's Meet in Rio, by Flatter

Last 3 Beyers: 79-79-58

He has improved since being sent around two turns and comes off a second-place finish behind stablemate Collected in last month's Sham Stakes, which marked his first start with Lasix.

Uncle Lino, by Uncle Mo

Last 3 Beyers: 88-86-64

Like I Will Score, he will be making his first start around two turns, and he finished just a neck back of I Will Score in an allowance race last month.

He also has good early speed, but his outside post gives him the option of being lapped on I Will Score. He has enough gas to make the top, though, if his connections choose to gun him from the start.

Path of David, by Istan

Last 3 Beyers: 81-80-69

He is 2 for 2 since being moved to trainer Kristin Mulhall. All his success has been on turf, and though he lost both of his prior dirt races, he had excuses both times, and he's clearly a better horse now.