As the third of five Road to the Kentucky Derby prep races held at Santa Anita each year, the Robert B. Lewis (G3) is a prominent steppingstone toward the “Run for the Roses,” offering 20 qualification points to the winner.
Named in memory of businessman and racehorse owner Robert B. “Bob” Lewis, whose horses regularly ran at Santa Anita, the Robert B. Lewis is one of Santa Anita’s oldest stakes races. First run in 1935 during the track’s inaugural meet, the race was originally known as the Santa Catalina and was held under a wide variety of conditions until 1964, when it settled into its current form as a 1 1⁄16-mile race for 3-year-olds.
Since then, the Robert B. Lewis has risen steadily in prominence. An early winner of note was Sham, famous for his duels with superstar Secretariat during the 1973 Triple Crown. Between 1980 and 2019 the race produced 46 Kentucky Derby starters, averaging about one per year.
In 1986, Ferdinand became the first Robert B. Lewis participant to win the Kentucky Derby, parlaying a runner-up effort into victory under the Twin Spires. Bob Lewis’ Charismatic followed suit in 1999, improving from fifth at Santa Anita to first at Churchill Downs. Following a quieter spell, I’ll Have Another became the first horse to win both races in 2012.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert won the Robert B. Lewis eight times between 1999 and 2020, establishing a record. Retired jockeys Bill Shoemaker and Laffit Pincay Jr. share the standard for riders with seven victories apiece.
By J. Keeler Johnson