Separated by less than a length in two stakes at Hollywood Park last fall, Liaison and Rousing Sermon will renew acquaintance in Saturday's Grade 2, $200,000 Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita, a 1 1/16-mile heat which marks the season debut for both classic contenders.
Liaison, trained by Bob Baffert, has gotten the better of the Jerry Hollendorfer-trained Rousing Sermon thus far. Liaison was a half-length to the good of his rival in the Real Quiet on November 12, but the margin was only a neck when they last met in the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity on December 17.
Both colts have winning form over the Santa Anita strip. Liaison broke his maiden going seven furlongs in his race prior to the Real Quiet, while Rousing Sermon was a 2 1/4-length winner of the California Cup Juvenile in late October.
Three CashCall Futurity also-rans have joined the Lewis lineup. Sky Kingdom, fourth in the Futurity, came back to dominate allowance foes by 4 1/2 lengths for Baffert last month, while fifth-placer Empire Way has not raced since the Hollywood feature. Groovin' Solo, who was pulled up in the Futurity after his rein broke, won a one-mile maiden event on December 30 and adds blinkers for the Lewis.
Isn't He Clever, whose three career stakes wins have occurred at Zia Park and Sunland Park, invades from New Mexico for trainer Henry Dominguez. A daylight winner of the Riley Allison Futurity last time, the gelding was a narrowly beaten second in the Clever Trevor at Remington Park in his only defeat.
Last-out Eddie Logan winner Chips All In, a son of Group 1 Epsom Derby winner North Light, captured the Gold Rush Futurity at Arapahoe Park in his only previous start on dirt. The Lewis field is completed by I'll Have Another, the Grade 2 Best Pal runner-up who's been sidelined since a wide-trip sixth in the Grade 1 Hopeful on Labor Day.