Trainer Doug O'Neill will seek a repeat win Feb. 2 in the $200,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II) with Reddam Racing's He's Had Enough , who has just three opponents in the early-season Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) prep.
O'Neill, of course, won last year's Lewis with 43-1 shot I'll Have Another , another Reddam runner that went on the win the Santa Anita Derby and the first two legs of the Triple Crown before a tendon injury ended his racing career.
In addition to He's Had Enough, this year's field includes two from the Bob Baffert barn, Den's Legacy and the fast-developing Flashback , who was made the 3-5 choice in the short field. The race, for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles, is the fourth on the Feb. 2 Santa Anita Park program with a 2:03 p.m. PST scheduled post.
One major contender, CashCall Futurity (gr. I) runner-up Fury Kapcori, has missed training time with an undisclosed problem, leading trainer Jerry Hollendorfer to skip this race. Another top challenger, the O'Neill-trained Sham Stakes (gr. III) winner Goldencents , will likely await next month's San Felipe Stakes (gr. II).
That puts He's Had Enough, a surprisingly strong runner-up to 2-year-old champion Shanghai Bobby in last fall's Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I), in a good position to nail down his first stakes victory. A win comes with 10 points toward a possible start in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
It is also an opportunity for He's Had Enough, who will be ridden by Mario Gutierrez, to get a little seasoning, O'Neill said. Gutierrez, who has ridden the the gray/roan Tapit colt in the past three starts, was along for a six-furlong workout timed in 1:10 4/5 on a wet-fast track Jan. 25 at Santa Anita.
"He's a horse that doesn't apply himself," said O'Neill, who also won the Lewis Stakes in 2007 with Reddam's Great Hunter. "You have to stay after him to keep him to his task. About mid-work Friday, Mario said he could feel him coming off the bridle and stop trying. So he got after him, he finished up good, and came out of it great. I think the more Mario gets to know him, the better we're going to see him."
He's Had Enough lost the BC Juvenile, also at 1 1/16 miles, by just a head after recovering from a slow start and battling Shanghai Bobby the length of the Santa Anita stretch. This will be his first start since a fifth-place finish in the CashCall Futurity Dec. 15 at Betfair Hollywood Park. Since his debut maiden win at Del Mar Aug. 12, the $200,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase has lost four straight.
Baffert, who has won the Lewis three times, turns loose Den's Legacy, second to Goldencents in the Sham, and debut maiden winner Flashback, making his first start since Dec. 8. The two Baffert entrants figure to have the pace all to themselves.
Westrock Stables' Den's Legacy has had his biggest success on turf, winning the Generous Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Hollywood Park and placing in two other grass stakes at Santa Anita. But the Medaglia d'Oro colt showed promise on the dirt as well in the one-mile Sham, overcoming an awkward start to finish well. Den's Legacy has finished in the money in seven of nine starts, winning twice, and will have Garrett Gomez back aboard.
Den's Legacy ran third in the CashCall Futurity over Hollywood's Cushion Track following his Generous victory. The bay appears to be well-primed for this following back-to-back five-furlong bullet workouts on the Santa Anita main track, most recently on Jan. 26. Out of Sunshine Song, by War Chant , the Florida-bred was bought for $150,000 at the 2010 Keeneland November breeding stock sale, consigned by Indian Creek, agent.Gary and Mary West's Flashback, a Kentucky-bred son of Tapit out of the winning Mr. Greeley mare Rhumb Line, was a $260,000 buy out of the same sale. The gray/roan colt was a 3 1/2-length winner at first asking as an even-money choice going seven furlongs at Hollywood, so will be making his first start on dirt in his initial try around two turns. He earned an outstanding 93 Beyer speed figure in his debut.
Like his stablemate, Flashback has been working superbly over the track, most recently posting a bullet :59 2/5 for five furlongs on a wet-fast surface Jan. 28. Eleven days earlier, he negotiated a half-mile in :46 3/5, also a bullet move. Julien Leparoux retains the mount.
Baffert knows the Kentucky Derby is a long ways away.
"Right now, you're not shooting for the first Saturday in May," said Baffert, who won the Derby in 1997 with Silver Charm, in 1998 with Real Quiet and in 2002 with War Emblem. "It's my horse's second out, he's going long, and I want it to be a good experience for him.
"I want him to run well and come out of it healthy. This race is just like a scrimmage. That's the way I look at it."
Completing the field is Jaam Racing and Riley Racing Stable's Little Jerry, eighth in the CashCall Futurity in his most recent start for trainer Richard Baltas. The Candy Ride colt graduated in his first try, coming from last to win by a neck at Hollywood Nov. 18 at odds of 25-1.
$200,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II, Race 4, 2:03 p.m.), 3YOs, 1 1/16 Miles
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Little Jerry (KY), T Baze, 118, R Baltas
2. Flashback (KY), J R Leparoux, 118, B Baffert
3. Den's Legacy (FL), G K Gomez, 120, B Baffert
4. He's Had Enough (KY), M Gutierrez, 118, D F O'Neill