By J. Keeler Johnson

Santa Anita's Road to the Kentucky Derby takes another turn with Saturday's running of the $200,000 Robert B. Lewis S. (G3). The 1 1/16-mile race has produced several Derby winners through the years, including eventual Horses of the Year Ferdinand and Charismatic. It's no wonder why the Lewis awards Kentucky Derby qualification points to the top four finishers on a 10-4-2-1 basis.

Note: Since trainer Bob Baffert is currently suspended by Churchill Downs Inc., horses conditioned by Baffert are ineligible to earn Kentucky Derby qualification points.

Messier
Total 4 start(s)
Wins:
2
Place:
2
Show:
0
Top Speed Rating:
(100) when finishing second in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) at Los Alamitos.
Total Earnings:
$165,600
Owner:
SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Robert E. Masterson, Jay A. Schoenfarber, Waves Edge Capital, Catherine M. Donovan, Golconda Stable, Siena Farm
Breeder:
Sam-Son Farm
Trainer:
Bob Baffert
Jockey:
John Velazquez
Sire:
Empire Maker
Dam:
Checkered Past
Color:
Bay

The most accomplished of the Robert B. Lewis entrants is Messier. The son of Belmont S. (G1) winner Empire Maker was in sharp form last fall, breaking his maiden at Santa Anita before winning the seven-furlong Bob Hope S. (G3) and finishing second in the 1 1/16-mile Los Alamitos Futurity (G2). Messier is versatile in terms of running style and was only beaten a length in the Los Alamitos Futurity while earning a flashy 100 Brisnet Speed rating, easily the highest figure in the Robert B. Lewis field. With Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez in the saddle, Messier is a logical favorite to prevail on Sunday.

Sir London
Total 3 start(s)
Wins:
1
Place:
2
Show:
0
Top Speed Rating:
(90) when finishing second in a maiden special weight at Del Mar.
Total Earnings:
$57,400
Owner:
AMO Racing USA and Qatar Racing
Breeder:
Castleton Lyons and Kilboy Estate
Trainer:
Simon Callaghan
Jockey:
Flavien Prat
Sire:
Malibu Moon
Dam:
Seeking Atlantis
Color:
Dark bay/brown

The third time was the charm for Sir London, who sold for $700,000 as a two-year-old in training. After finishing second in his first two starts sprinting at Santa Anita and Del Mar, the dark bay colt stretched out over one mile at Los Alamitos, where he smashed a maiden special weight by 10 lengths. Hot jockey Flavien Prat (a 31% winner at Santa Anita) retains the mount, and Sir London has enough tactical speed to vie for early supremacy. Don't count this improving prospect out of the mix.

Cabo Spirit
Total 7 start(s)
Wins:
2
Place:
1
Show:
2
Top Speed Rating:
(89) when winning the Eddie Logan S. on turf at Santa Anita.
Total Earnings:
$137,220
Owner:
Kretz Racing
Breeder:
WinStar Farm
Trainer:
George Papaprodromou
Jockey:
Victor Espinoza
Sire:
Pioneerof the Nile
Dam:
Fancy Day
Color:
Dark bay/brown

With seven starts under his belt, Cabo Spirit is easily the most experienced horse in the Robert B. Lewis field. He's also shown promising form against quality competition, finishing third in the Cecil B. DeMille S. (G3) before rallying to victory in the Eddie Logan S. Cabo Spirit is proven running long, but his best efforts have come on grass, and his 3-0-0-1 record on dirt is less inspiring. Can he reproduce his best form while returning to dirt, or will the surface switch trip him up? That's the question for handicappers to ponder.

Wharton
Total 1 start(s)
Wins:
1
Place:
0
Show:
0
Top Speed Rating:
(87) when winning his debut at Santa Anita.
Total Earnings:
$40,200
Owner:
SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Robert E. Masterson, Jay A. Schoenfarber, Waves Edge Capital, Catherine M. Donovan, Golconda Stable, Siena Farm
Breeder:
KatieRich Farms
Trainer:
Bob Baffert
Jockey:
Juan Hernandez
Sire:
Candy Ride
Dam:
Her Smile
Color:
Dark bay/brown

Wharton couldn't have been much flashier in his Dec. 31 debut sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs at Santa Anita. After tracking a quick pace over a good track, Wharton took command under jockey John Velazquez and powered away to beat a promising field by 5 1/4 lengths. The fact Velazquez has opted to ride Messier in the Robert B. Lewis hints the latter might have a better chance at victory on Sunday, but Wharton has the pedigree to improve with maturity and can't be dismissed from consideration.

Happy Jack
Total 1 start(s)
Wins:
1
Place:
0
Show:
0
Top Speed Rating:
(86) when winning his debut at Santa Anita.
Total Earnings:
$40,200
Owner:
Calumet Farm
Breeder:
Calumet Farm
Trainer:
Doug O'Neill
Jockey:
Abel Cedillo
Sire:
Oxbow
Dam:
Tapitstry
Color:
Bay

If there's a wildcard in the Robert B. Lewis field, it's surely Happy Jack. The son of Oxbow debuted just two weeks ago at Santa Anita, rallying from behind fast fractions to win a six-furlong maiden special weight by 1 1/4 lengths. Two-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Doug O'Neill has won the Lewis twice (including in 2012 with eventual Derby champion I'll Have Another), and tossing Happy Jack into deep waters so soon after his debut is a promising sign. An upset victory isn't out of the question.