CashCall Futurity (gr. I) winner Pioneerof the Nile will make his eagerly-awaited 3-year-old debut and attempt to establish himself as one of the West Coast’s top Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) contenders, as he faces eight sophomore rivals in the $200,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II) Feb. 7 at Santa Anita Park.
Among those Zayat Stables’ Pioneerof the Nile will face are I Want Revenge and Bittel Road, who finished second and fourth, respectively, in the CashCall, and impressive allowance winner Shafted. Also in the field is Brother Keith, a highly-regarded Bobby Frankel trainee who blew the first turn in the San Rafael Stakes (gr. III) last month en route to a distant fourth-place finish.
The 1 1/16-mile Robert B. Lewis will be run on the Santa Anita Pro-Ride surface and goes to post at 4:07 p.m. PDT. Rain is in the Southern California forecast for Feb. 7.
Trained by three-time Kentucky Derby winner Bob Baffert, Pioneerof the Nile held on for a thrilling nose victory over I Want Revenge in the Dec. 20 CashCall after stalking the pace and taking over in mid-stretch. It was his first start for Baffert, who had recently taken over training duties from Bill Mott.
As a juvenile, Pioneerof the Nile finished third in the Lane’s End Breeders’ Futurity (gr. I) and fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I). The son of Empire Maker—Star of Goshen, by Lord At War broke his maiden on the turf at Saratoga.
A $290,000 yearling, Pioneer of the Nile has already amassed $450,000 in graded stakes earnings. All five of his starts have come at 1 1/16 miles. Garrett Gomez, aboard for the CashCall victory, gets the return mount and will have a 122-pound impost.
David J. Lanzman Racing Stable’s I Want Revenge made an impressive stakes debut in the CashCall, weaving his way between horses in the stretch before narrowly missing. The Stephen Got Even colt came from off the pace in that effort, unlike his maiden-breaking win at Hollywood on Oct. 29 when he went wire-to-wire in the 1 1/16-mile test.
I Want Revenge, trained by Jeff Mullins, has not been off the board in five career starts. Joe Talamo will be aboard once again.
James Scatuorchio and John Iracane’s Bittel Road won the first three starts of his career as a juvenile, capped by the Bourbon Stakes (gr. III) last October at Keeneland. After faltering in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, Bittel Road ended his 2-year-old campaign by finishing runner-up in the Generous Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Hollywood, and then came off the turf for the first time when missing by 3 1/2 lengths in the CashCall.
Todd Pletcher trains Bittel Road, a $340,000 yearling purchase. John Velazquez has the mount and they will break from the rail.
Woodford Racing’s Shafted shipped in from Woodbine to make his 3-year-old debut Jan. 2 at Santa Anita and turned in a dazzling performance. After being pinched at the start, the son of Mineshaft made a big, four-wide move, took over in upper stretch, and rolled to a 2 1/2-length allowance score under Joel Rosario. Trained by leading Canadian conditioner Mark Casse, Shafted won one of two starts in Canada. He was sixth to Patena in the Dec. 6 Display Stakes.
Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Brother Keith will try to rebound from a disappointing San Rafael effort. The Johar colt was rank at the start and drifted out very wide on the first turn to seal his fate. It was only the second career start for Brother Keith, who broke his maiden at six furlongs on the Churchill dirt last fall. Tyler Baze will be aboard for the first time.