Horse Racing: Previews of the 2014 Robert B. Lewis Stakes & The 2014 Donn Handicap

Like last week, we will be taking closer looks at two races this weekend in our Horse Racing Race(s) of the Week in Saturday’s Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita Park in California which will feature the unbeaten Midnight Hawk, and Sunday’s 2014 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park in Florida, featuring a great match up between 2013 three year old colt champion Will Take Charge and the talented, multiple stakes winning Revolutionary.

The Donn Handicap, which is run at nine furlongs for $500,000 and boasts an impressive list of past winner including the mighty Forego, Foolish Pleasure, Deputy Minister, Cigar, Skip Away, Invasor and Quality Road, is the first major handicap for older horses run in the country.

The Robert B. Lewis, run at 8 ½ furlongs for $200,000, is the first in a series of races at Santa Anita for three year olds in preparation for Santa Anita Derby, and eventually the Kentucky Derby, as the ultimate goals.

Other notable races being run this weekend including the San Antonio Stakes at Santa Anita where top older horse Game On Dude will looking for a repeat (he won this race last year) before his next stop, the Santa Anita Handicap, March 9.

Game On Dude, who went a half in :48 flat this past Sunday as his final work this race, will face six other rivals in the San Antonio and the speedy gelding might have his hands full early with Blueskiesnrainbows entered as well.

Also, Saturday’s card at Gulfstream shows the $150,000 Gulfstream Park Sprint Stakes which is run at seven furlongs for four year olds and up. The field, which drew a total of 11, looks deep and competitive with the consistent Laugh Track, the veteran Jackson Bend, the talented, and possibly rounding back into top form, Falling Sky and Singanothersong, who had back to back wins to end 2013, all looking like they have good chances to win.


Santa Anita Park – Saturday, February 8, 2014

Race 8 – 4:00 PM    

Robert B. Lewis Stakes (Grade: 2)

Purse $200,000

For Three-Year-Olds

One And One Sixteenth Miles









1 Candy Boy 3/C L G L Stevens 118 J W Sadler
2 Diamond Bachelor 3/C   J R Leparoux 118 P L Biancone
3 Midnight Hawk 3/C L M E Smith 120 B Baffert
4 Home Run Kitten 3/C L J Talamo 118 D E Hofmans
5 Cool Samurai 3/G L C S Nakatani 118 J A Shirreffs
6 El Nino Terrible 3/C L E A Maldonado 118 P Miller
7 Chitu 3/C L M Garcia 118 B Baffert



1) Midnight Hawk- trainer Bob Baffert certainly comes into this race fully armed for battle between this horse and the third choice as combined, they are 4 for 4 in their careers.

I picked this horse to win the Jan 11 Race of the Week (the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita) after watching him win his debut while breaking slowly, then literally dragging jockey Mike Smith to the lead at the head of the stretch and then open up on the field to win by 6 ¼ lengths.

I’m taking him right back after watching his Sham Stakes win, where albeit he broke well in that race, he had to battle every step of the way (on the front end) and still won by almost 2 lengths.

Ignore the “drifted in in the stretch” comment in the Racing Form as he was showing more greenness that fatigue.

“He was waiting a bit on horses, but (when) he came back, (after the race) he didn’t look like he was very tired.” Baffert said after the race…He couldn’t have been that tired, if he was, I know Baffert, he wouldn’t have worked him three times and run him back so quickly (less than a month) if he was.

Of the three aforementioned works, the last one, which was a strong five furlongs in 1:00 3/5 (out in 1:26.2), prompted Baffert to say “All systems are go, We’re all set.”…yes, it certainly looks like he is.


2) Candy Boy- this bay colt by Candy Ride’s last two races have been very good.

You have to like that Nov 8 win where obliterated a short field of maidens as he ran away to win by over 8 lengths and you also have to like that last race (probably) even more.

That last race was the Dec 14 Cashcall Futurity, where he broke towards the back of the pack (10th of 12) at 26-1 odds but showed an tremendous (middle move) run to take command of the race at about the half mile pole.

The only problem for him was that the two year old champion Shared Belief, and his nothing short devastating acceleration, was in the same race. Yes, Shared Belief went right on by at the quarter pole while Candy Boy “held well” for second, but come on, we are talking about a champion and early Kentucky Derby favorite here….no shame in coming second to that beast.

Trainer John Sadler has definitely turned up the heat in those last three works (Jan. 18- 5F- :59.3, Jan. 25- 6F- 1:13.2 and Feb. 1- 6F- 1:13 flat) and he gets the services of the great Gary Stevens, who is riding at a white hot 26% winning percentage at this meet.


3) Chitu- is the other half of an uncoupled entry sent out by Baffert.

This speedster by the corvette looking Henny Hughes (himself lighting bolt fast) won his debut while getting six furlongs in 1:09.4, then came back less than three weeks later to beat a field of high priced optional claimers while getting the same six furlongs a full second faster (1:08.4)…that’s a five length improvement in less than three weeks.

But really what stands out the most to me about this colt is almost every single one of his workouts, dating back to Oct 23, are a bullet work…I mean I haven’t seen that many bullets flying since the movie The Terminator and he topped it off with his last two, going half miles in :46.3 (Jan 29) and :46.2 (Feb.4).

Oh and don’t worry too much about this horse going from six furlongs to a mile, Baffert has an eye popping (almost) 30% success ratio in that category.  


Honorable Mentions:

Cool Samurai made up nine lengths late to finish second in his racing debut at Belmont, then moved to California (Santa Anita) and made up 10 ½ lengths to break his maiden in his second start. This First Samurai gelding, trained by John Sherriffs (of Zenyatta fame) who is batting 22% at this meet, comes into this with three strong seven furlongs works under his belt and could be coming late once again in this spot…the faster the early pace, the better this race sets up for this guy. Diamond Bachelor appears to be a better turf horse judging by his past performances but I’m not completely sold on that based on the fact his one and only dirt race was in the 2013 BC Juvenile, where he stood no chance right from the start and had a horrible (wide) trip.



Gulfstream ParkSunday, February 9, 2014

Race 12 – 6:01 PM    

Donn Handicap (Grade: 1)

Purse $500,000.

For Four Year Olds and Upward

One And One Eighth Miles









1 Uncaptured 4/C L M Mena 116 M E Casse
2 Will Take Charge 4/C L L Saez 123 D W Lukas
3 Revolutionary 4/C L J Castellano 119 T A Pletcher
4 Neck ‘n Neck 5/H L J R Leparoux 116 I R Wilkes
5 River Seven 4/G L J Rocco, Jr. 116 N Gonzalez
6 Romansh 4/C L J R Velazquez 116 T Albertrani
7 Viramundo 5/H L P Lopez 114 M D Wolfson
8 Lea 5/H L J Rosario 117 W I Mott
9 Bourbon Courage 5/H L J Lezcano 115 K Gorder
10 Macho Bull 5/G L M A Kappushev 112 G Dorochenko
11 Joshua’s Comprise 4/C L F Z Maysonett 114 B R Rose



1) Will Take Charge- had quiet an impressive second half of the year in 2013 which became more than enough to take the three year old championship title….and the scary part is, I think he still has room for improvement.

It appears he turned the corner in his career sometime after the June 8 Belmont Stakes (where he finished a dismal 10th, beaten 17 lengths). After that race in succession, he came with a late, menacing rush to finished second in the Jim Dandy Stakes, then won the prestigious Travers Stakes and Pennsylvania Derby, before he missed winning the 2013 Breeders Cup Classic by the slimmest of noses and finished the year off by beating top older horse Game On Dude in the Grade: 1 Clark Handicap.

Although this will be this well bred (Unbridled Song out of multiple Grade:1 winner Take Charge Lady, by Dehere) chestnut with the enormous white blaze coming down his face’s first race since the Breeders Cup, he’s been training very well and especially looked good in those previous two works (Jan 20- 5F- 1:00.3 and Jan 26- 6F- 1:14.4).

After his final work (4F- :49.2) this past Sunday, D. Wayne Lukas’ assistant trainer John Sica said “He jogged a little and galloped a mile and three-eighths. It seemed like he got over the track well, and the exercise rider said he felt good.”

“In light of the (sloppy) track, I thought the work went real well,” Lukas said of Will Take Charge’s move. “It was aggressive, strong and I wouldn’t change a thing.” 

He’ll rightfully carry top weight (123 lbs) but Lukas isn’t worried.

“I think probably at this time of the year they’re not going to load up too much on any of the horses,” Lukas said. “I’m not a guy that gets too carried away about the weight. I think he might be a bit sharper because he’s had this little break. I think he could lay a little closer. I’m familiar with some of the horses in here, but we’ll run our race regardless. He handles everything well.”

2) Revolutionary- no secret I like this gorgeous well bred (War Pass-Runup the Colors) colt as I said before, I had him ranked #1 in my (soon to return) Countdown to the Triple Crown list for quite some time last year.

He came with a strong late run to finish third in the Derby last year and then a some what disappointing fifth in the Belmont before his connections (Winstar Farms and trainer Todd Plaetcher) put him away for the rest of the year, citing he needed to “grow more and fill out”

He came back to the races well evidently as, after breaking slowly, he rallied late to win a high priced optional claimer race by half a length on Jan 11 and then worked a strong :47.4 half mile Jan 20.

The race and the half mile work should set him up well for this race…will it set him up perfectly?….probably not, but this one talented horse and I expect a big effort on Saturday afternoon…Will Take Charge’s main rival hands down.


3) River Seven- comes into this riding a three race winning streak with two of those wins coming in dominant fashion. I like the 10 times on the board in 13 career races but I like the fact that he ran one of the best, if not THE best, race of career in his Gulfstream Park debut last time out….always respect a horse who likes the surface he’s running over.


Honorable Mentions:

Lea is similar to River Seven as he has been on the board 9 of 11 career starts and won the traditional prep race (The Hal’s Hope Stakes) for the Donn  by 3 ½ in his Gulfstream Park debut. Uncaptured, I’ve always liked this late runner by Lion Heart and even though he hasn’t won in a while (July 2013), he’s still batting almost .500 in his career ( 7 for 16). Veramundo made up a tremendous amount of ground late in his past two races including that last one (made up 7 ½ lengths) and was beaten just 1 ½ lengths to Revolutionary in that same race….looking for a long-shot? Here you go.

2014 Record: 4-7 = 57%

2013 Record: 20-59 = 34%

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Little Bets N’ Pieces

***** Multiple grade: 1 winner Executiveprivilege has been retired and will be bred to Midnight Lute, co-owner Mike Pegram confirmed last Saturday.

Executiveprivilege, who defeated eventual 2-year-old filly champion Beholder in 2012 Del Mar Debutante, and sprint champion Midnight Lute were both trained by Bob Baffert.

“She was a great runner,” Pegram said. “That race her and Beholder ran, the Debutante down at Del Mar, had to be one of the best I’ve seen. She took us to a lot of great races and gave us a lot of thrills.”

 “It was a little of this, a little of that,” Pegram added on why he was retiring the filly. “She had done enough. It was time to take her to the breeding shed and see what her next career will be.”

 The family line doesn’t end there as Hoppertunity, a half brother to Executiveprivilege, was purchased by Pegram and then promptly broke his maiden last Friday by three lengths going a mile at Santa Anita.

“It’s kind of ironic; her half brother won for us at Santa Anita and it looks like he’ll be a good one too,” Pegram said. “She retires, but up jumps her brother, so we’re looking forward to that.”

Multiple stakes winner Executiveprivilegeretires

Multiple stakes winner Executiveprivilegeretires

***** Cairo Prince, impressive winner of the $400,000 Holy Bull Stakes, is passing the Fountain of Youth and will likely make his next start in the March 29 Florida Derby.
“The plans right now are to probably just point for the Florida Derby,” trainer Kiaren McLaughlin said. “The Holy Bull was a huge effort, and they’re not machines. It’s hard to run every four weeks and run your best. We’ll still look at (the Fountain of Youth), but we might very well skip it.”
“Cairo’s doing great and eating up well,” McLaughlin added. “He’s just doing real well. He’s back to the track training. The Holy Bull was such a huge effort, and we have to look down the road to the first Saturday in May.”


Dominant Holy Bull Stakes winner Cairo Prince will skip the Fountain of Youth

Dominant Holy Bull Stakes winner Cairo Prince will skip the Fountain of Youth


**** A change of plans was announced for 2013 Wood Memorial and Haskell Stakes winner Verrazano. Instead of being retired to Ashford Stud near Versailles, Ky., the grand looking son of More Than Ready will remain in training and be transferred to Coolmore’s Ireland-based Ballydoyle Stables to be trained by Aidan O’Brien.

“Being the best son of More Than Ready, who is doing so well as a sire in Australia, we feel that a European campaign would raise his profile when the time comes for him to shuttle there,” said Ashford Stud manager Dermot Ryan.

“It makes sense for Verrazano to move to Europe as he has achieved so much already here,” said Todd Pletcher, who trained the colt last year. “The owners love to have their best horses run at Royal Ascot, and a win there would be of great benefit to his stallion career.”

His career record stands at 6-0-1 from 10 starts, for earnings of $1,691,300.


Verrazano's racing career isn't over ...yet

Verrazano’s racing career isn’t over …yet

**** 2013 Champagne Stakes winner and Breeders Cup Juvenile runner-up Havana returned to the work tab last Saturday for the first time since the BC (November) race. The son of up and coming stallion Dunkirk breezed three furlongs in :37.3 at Palm Meadows Training Center Feb. 1.

“I thought he worked really well and looked good,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “His fitness level was probably a little ahead of where I expected him to be. He went out very nicely, so we were pleased with that.”
“We just wanted to get him back on the work tab and get him back into a routine,” Pletcher added. “He was actually scheduled to work a couple days before but we had all that rain so we had to wait. We’re just trying to get him back on schedule and thought we made up quite a bit of ground today. He was more fit than I figured he would be.”
Havana, who got a late start in his 2014 training, is pointing to the $150,000 Swale Stakes at seven furlongs on March 1.

“We are right now on schedule for the Swale,” Pletcher said.


Questions still linger about Havana's stamina

Questions still linger about Havana’s stamina


**** Eblouissante, a half-sister to Horse of the Year Zenyatta, also worked five furlongs at Santa Anita this past Saturday in 1:00 4/5 for trainer John Shirreffs.

“She’s ready to run, but we haven’t been able to get a race to fill for her,” said Dottie Shirreffs, racing manager for owners Jerry and Ann Moss and Shirreff’s wife.


Zenyatta's little sister Eblouissante is ready to run again

Zenyatta’s little sister Eblouissante is ready to run again

*****….and finally a couple of things in the occasional “This has nothing to do with Horse Racing” section, I read about a man in Ghana who, last week, walked into a public bathroom in a shopping mall to defecate and, after he getting himself comfortably seated, felt a sharp pain on his penis.

Kwabena Nkrumah, 34, quickly arose to find a snake in the toilet staring back at him and looking poised to strike again.

Mr. Nkrumah fled the bathroom screaming (as I would have) and in turn sent a wave of fear thru a small section of the mall.

He was immediately taken to the local hospital and when the doctor apologized for the incident and for the fact that the treatment might also “sting”, Mr. Nkrumah responded his penis “always hurts, so this was nothing new” and that he just “didn’t want infection to set in”.

Now, I don’t know about you, but if this guy’s penis “always hurts”, it kind of makes me wonder exactly what the women are like in that country….you know?

* God speed to reader Adrienne in Michigan for a speedy recovery from some type of a heart condition.

* I saw $119.7 million was bet on the Super Bowl with some 68% on Denver, I guess Las Vegas made some money this past weekend?

 Anyway, thank for reading…