Trainer Bob Baffert viewed the $200,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II) as little more than a scrimmage for untested Flashback, and the talented son of Tapit proved he was ready for tougher with an easy tally at Santa Anita Park Feb. 2 (VIDEO).
Making just his second start, Flashback shot to the top of Southern California's 3-year-old ranks with an impressive win.
Flashback dictated the pace over his three Lewis rivals as the 1-2 favorite and drew off in the stretch after getting a slight tap on the shoulder from jockey Julien Leparoux. The rangy strawberry roan colt scored by 6 1/4 lengths while completing the 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:42.95 over a fast track.
A full brother to two-time grade I winning filly Zazu, Gary and Mary West's Flashback debuted with a 3 1/2-length win going seven furlongs on the Cushion Track at Betfair Hollywood Park Dec. 8.
After the Lewis, Baffert thanked the Wests for "putting this monster in my lap."
"I've hadn't really asked him in his works, he's never been farther that five furlongs," Baffert added. "He's always shown us he's a really talented horse."
Out of the winning Mr. Greeley mare Rhumb Line, Flashback sold for $250,000 at the 2010 Keeneland November sale. Dr. William G. Andrade and Michael E. Hernon bred the winner in Kentucky.
The victory was worth 10 points toward a possible start in the 2013 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) for Flashback. The Robert Lewis was the race that 43-1 shot I'll Have Another used to launch his bid toward a pair of victories on the Triple Crown trail for trainer Doug O'Neill last year.
Breaking from post 2 in the tiny field, Leparoux allowed Flashback to go directly to the front while slowing the pace with his stablemate Den's Legacy and the O'Neill-trained He's Had Enough stalking. After an opening quarter mile of :24.17, Den's Legacy dropped down to the inside under Garrett Gomez as He's Had Enough tugged his way alongside Flashback for Mario Gutierrez. The half mile was timed in :48.69 and six furlongs went in 1:12.17.
Leaving the turn, Leparoux asked, ever so slightly, for a little more and Flashback began to lengthen his stride as He's Had Enough struggled to keep up. There was no danger through the stretch run as Flashback switched leads readily, and Leparoux kept his inexperienced charge to the task all the way to the wire.
"I think he's still a little green," Leparoux said. "It was an easy race, we won easy, and this is a nice horse. If he keeps improving, I think he has a bright future."
Den's Legacy, runner-up in the Sham Stakes (gr. III) was no match for Flashback while edging He's Had Enough for second by half a length. Little Jerry trailed.
Gomez said the winner had things his own way and there was litte Den's Legacy could do about it.
"It's kind of hard to out-kick a nice horse, especially when you go 48 and change," he said.
Flashback increased his earnings to $147,000 and paid $3 and $2.40. Den's Legacy returned $2.40, and the all-Baffert exacta was worth $4.80. There was no show wagering.
"They were going pretty slow early but I think he'll get something out of that race," Baffert said of Flashback. "As far as distance, it's not a problem. He has speed; he has tactical speed, but I don't think he's the kind of horse that needs to be on the lead or anything like that."
Baffert said he was unsure of the next stop for Flashback.
"I'll speak with Gary (West), we'll just figure out a plan for him and just keep him healthy," he said. "That's the main plan right now. Right now I can't think that far ahead. I just have to keep him healthy and keep him going forward. We knew he was a special horse, and to win the Robert B. Lewis is really a sentimental win for me because he (Lewis) was one of the greatest owners in the sport. It brings back a lot of good memories."