A small field of five is entered for the 1 1/16-mile Cushion Track test, which was open to any early bird nominees to the 2008 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I), to be run on April 5.
Crown of Thorns, from the first crop of Louisiana Derby (gr. II) winner Repent out of the Thunder Gulch mare Crowning Touch, was ultra impressive in breaking his maiden at seven furlongs in his second start Jan. 1 at Santa Anita. Vying for the lead from the outset through fast early fractions, Crown of Thorns outlasted his challengers to reach the eighth pole in front by one length after running three-quarters in 1:08. He drew off smartly from there while ridden out by jockey Victor Espinoza, finishing in 1:20 3/5.
Mandella said he doesn’t expect the added distance to present a problem for Crown of Thorns.
“It’s only one more turn,” the Hall of Fame trainer said. “I missed a little bit (of training time), but I’m sure everybody did, too.”
Clover Leaf Farms II bred Crown of Thorns in Florida. He brought $300,000 as a 2-year-old at the Ocala Breeders' Sale Company's March auction. His sire, a 9-year-old son of Louis Quatorze, won four graded stakes races, placed in three others, and earned $1.2 million.
Crown of Thorns has made huge strides since his first start, Mandella later noted. In his debut Dec. 8, the bay colt ran fifth in a six-furlong maiden race at Hollywood Park after fanning wide while racing mid-pack on the turn. Espinoza rides once again.
All four of his rivals in the Lewis are capable of jumping up as well.
Cecil Peacock's Indian Sun has been graded stakes placed on both grass and synthetic track and has been off the board just once in five starts for trainer Dan Hendricks. That came in a fifth-place finish, 3 1/2 lengths behind the victorious Into Mischief, in CashCall Futurity (gr. I) at Hollywood Park just before Christmas.
Indian Sun, an Indian Charlie colt who brought $140,000 at Barretts last March, returned to run second, more than six lengths behind El Gato Malo, in the San Rafael (gr. III) at Santa Anita three weeks ago. He leads the field in earnings with $114,400. Indian Sun drew the rail and will be ridden by Alex Solis, who has been aboard the bay for all of the colt's starts.
Amerman Racing's Coast Guard broke his maiden Dec. 29 when stretched out to a one-mile route distance by trainer David Hofmans. He figures to be the speed of the field after going gate to wire to win by 2 1/2 lengths when teamed for the first time in three starts with jockey Rafael Bejarano. The dark bay Kentucky-bred Stormy Atlantic colt, a $300,000 Keeneland September yearling sale in 2006, will be fitted with blinkers for the Lewis.
The Japanese-bred Reflect Times, owned by Koji Maeda and conditioned by John Shirreffs, has won both of his starts coming from off the pace. The French Deputy colt broke his maiden at Del Mar at six furlongs Sept. 1, then returned nearly five months later to defeat a first-level allowance group by one length going 6 1/2 furlongs at Santa Anita. Mike Smith, who was aboard the chestnut for his debut, takes over for David Flores this time.
The Todd Pletcher trainee Meal Penalty won the first two starts of his career back east but has not fared as well in three West Coast starts. The gray son of Tale of the Cat is coming off a well-beaten fifth at odds of 19-10 in the San Pedro Stakes Jan. 20. A month earlier, Meal Penalty ran eighth after pressing the pace in the CashCall Futurity, his only previous route effort. Leading rider Garrett Gomez has the call.
$200,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II, Race 5, 2:05 p.m.), 3-Year-Olds, 1 1/16 Miles (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Indian Sun (KY), 115, Alex O. Solis
2. Crown of Thorns (FL), 115, Victor Espinoza
3. Coast Guard (KY), 115, Rafael Bejarano
4. Reflect Times (JPN), 117, Mike E. Smith
5. Meal Penalty (KY), 117, Garrett K. Gomez