Lisa Lewis is a dreamer, but she's also a realist. So, when she says she feels Kissin Saint is ready to make his presence felt against Funny Cide in tomorrow's Preakness, it might be wise to pay attention.
Yes, Kissin Saint was beaten 8 lengths when third to the eventual Kentucky Derby winner in the Wood Memorial, but the son of Kissin Kris was forced to alter course when New York Hero cut in front of him shortly after the break.
"The main reason why we felt we should take a chance in the Preakness is because the Wood Memorial was such a key race," Lewis said. "We got beat 8 lengths, but we into some trouble going into the first turn, which cost us position, and we got shuffled back to last. I don't think it would have changed the outcome. I still think we would have finished third, but we might have been beaten 3 to 4 lengths, and I think we can make up those 3 to 4 lengths."
With heavy rains and strong winds Friday morning Lewis has no concerns should the track some up sloppy. "The first time he ever ran, it was an awfully sloppy track and he handled it well that day. And the Wood wasn't run on a great track, and he also handled the inner track this winter. So between the inner track and bad weather, we feel like this normal."
Lewis said she had her eye on Kissin Saint the first time he ran in a $30,000 maiden claiming race at Aqueduct, and was pretty sure he'd come back in another claiming race. When he showed up for a $50,000 tag next time out, she put in the claim. Kissin Saint won that race by 14 lengths, and continued improving with each start.
"The first time out, the track was so bad they canceled the races after the first race," she said. "He broke badly and got shuffled back, and when he turned for home he still never really had a chance to run. When he finally got clear, he just exploded down the stretch. That was the first time I saw him. He was a big, beautiful horse and looked like a horse who wanted to go long. I thought they'd run him back for a tag, and I was confident, bcause his time was slow and he ran a low Beyer, so it was hard to like him off that number."
Kissin Saint won his next two starts in allowance company before finishing third in the Wood. That was good enough to encourage Lewis and owners Peter Karches and Michael Rankowitz to go on to the Preakness
Lewis, who has 20 horses at Belmont, started training at Tampa Bay Downs at the age of 19, and has been training in New York for the last 10 years. " I had American Royale right off the bat, and the door was open," Lewis said. "I felt that was the time to try it. I look back now and I was too naïve to know any better. I didn't realize at the time what an accomplishment it was to have a filly the calber of American Raoyale. I've been in racing almost all my life, and have been in New York for the past 10 years, so I can appreciate now how tough it is to get a good one to a big race."
Lewis' mother, Penny, is a veteran trainer, and saddled Hegar in the 1993 Preakness Stakes. Lisa left high school after the 10th grade to become a trainer. "My father almost had heart failure," she said. "He's on the board of Mt. Holyoke School and he's a very education-minded person. He was nervous having his only daughter quit school to become a horse trainer. My mom, on the other hand said. 'Go for it. You're gonna do great. But he's been my biggest fan. I look back and I wonder why I was in such a big hurry. I just felt I had to be at the track."