Great Hunter Begins Derby Chase Saturday

Great Hunter Begins Derby Chase Saturday
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
Great Hunter wins last October's Lane's End Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland.
Grade I winner Great Hunter will be favored to provide trainer Doug O’Neill and jockey Corey Nakatani with their second major stakes victory on Saturday when the colt joins a field of nine 3-year-olds for the $200,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita.

O'Neill and Nakatani also will be handling the 4-5 morning line choice Lava Man in the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I), which is two races after the Lewis, formerly known as the Santa Catalina Stakes and now named for the popular owner who died last year. A major prep for the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I), it is contested at 1 1/16 miles.

Owned by J. Paul Reddam, Great Hunter, a Pennsylvania-bred son of Aptitude, has not raced since finishing third to Street Sense in the Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) last Nov. 4 at Churchill Downs.

“He’s ready to roll,” O’Neill said of the colt he describes as “a beautiful looking individual, a gorgeous-bodied horse.”

As a 2-year-old, Great Hunter posted a 2-4-1 record in seven starts for earnings of $630,000, winning the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity (gr. I) at Keeneland in October.

There are no other graded stakes winners in the field, although a couple of entrants certainly bear watching.

Trainer Bob Baffert, who purchased eventual Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner War Emblem five weeks before the race in 2002, has come up with a Sweetsouthernsaintgelding named Saint Paul, who has been getting noticed in the mornings at Santa Anita.

Based at Calder, the Florida-bred Saint Paul woke up after four so-so starts when trainer Paul Maxwell put the blinkers on him in a one-mile maiden race on the dirt. Saint Paul drew off to an 8 1/4-length victory. Baffert bought the horse for Mike Bello, who owned Megahertz.

The late-running Boutrous, trained by Craig Dollase, a son of Tiznow  , turned in powerful stretch runs to win a maiden race and an allowance event at Hollywood Park before finishing second in the California Derby after a nightmare trip.

Hurry Up Austin was scratched at the gate of the seven-furlong San Vicente Stakes (gr. II) on Feb. 11 with what appeared to be a bent left hind shoe. The Mel Stute trainee was the second choice at odds of 5-2 at the time he came out of the line-up.

Sam P. comes in off a fourth-place finish in the Holy Bull (gr. III) for 3-year-olds at Gulstream Park Feb. 3.

$200,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II, Race 8, 3:30 p.m.), 3-Year-Olds, 1 1/16 Miles
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Tiago (KY), 115, Victor Espinoza
2. Scat Thief (KY), 115, Michael C. Baze
3. Hurry Up Austin (FL), 115, Jon K. Court
4. French Transition (NY), 115, Julien R. Leparoux
5. Saint Paul (FL), 115, Alex O. Solis
6. Tap It Light (CA), 117, David Cohen
7. Sam P. (KY), 117, Garrett K. Gomez
8. Great Hunter (PA), 117, Corey S. Nakatani
9. Boutrous (KY), 117, David R. Flores

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