ROBERT B. LEWIS S. | PURSE: $200,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS | GRADE 2 | 1 1/16-MILES
Trainer Bob Baffert viewed the $200,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes as little more than a scrimmage for untested Flashback, and the talented son of Tapit proved he was ready for tougher with an easy tally at Santa Anita Park Feb. 2.
Making just his second start, Flashback shot to the top of Southern California's 3-year-old ranks with an impressive win.
Flashback dictated the pace over his three Lewis rivals as the 1-2 favorite and drew off in the stretch after getting a slight tap on the shoulder from jockey Julien Leparoux. The rangy strawberry roan colt scored by 6 1/4 lengths while completing the 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:42.95 over a fast track.
A full brother to two-time grade I winning filly Zazu, Gary and Mary West's Flashback debuted with a 3 1/2-length win going seven furlongs on the Cushion Track at Betfair Hollywood Park Dec. 8.
After the Lewis, Baffert thanked the Wests for "putting this monster in my lap."
"I've hadn't really asked him in his works, he's never been farther that five furlongs," Baffert added. "He's always shown us he's a really talented horse."
Out of the winning Mr. Greeley mare Rhumb Line, Flashback sold for $250,000 at the 2010 Keeneland November sale. Dr. William G. Andrade and Michael E. Hernon bred the winner in Kentucky.
The victory was worth 10 points toward a possible start in the 2013 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands for Flashback. The Robert Lewis was the race that 43-1 shot I'll Have Another used to launch his bid toward a pair of victories on the Triple Crown trail for trainer Doug O'Neill last year.
Breaking from post 2 in the tiny field, Leparoux allowed Flashback to go directly to the front while slowing the pace with his stablemate Den's Legacy and the O'Neill-trained He's Had Enough stalking. After an opening quarter mile of :24.17, Den's Legacy dropped down to the inside under Garrett Gomez as He's Had Enough tugged his way alongside Flashback for Mario Gutierrez. The half mile was timed in :48.69 and six furlongs went in 1:12.17.
Leaving the turn, Leparoux asked, ever so slightly, for a little more and Flashback began to lengthen his stride as He's Had Enough struggled to keep up. There was no danger through the stretch run as Leparoux kept his inexperienced charge to the task.
Den's Legacy, runner-up in the Sham Stakes was no match for Flashback while edging He's Had Enough for second by half a length. Little Jerry trailed.
Flashback increased his earnings to $147,000 and paid $3 and $2.40. Den's Legacy returned $2.40, and the all-Baffert exacta was worth $4.80. There was no show wagering.