Michael Lombardi's Lombo used his sprinter's speed to get to the front and kept going all the way to the finish to pick up 10 Road to the Kentucky Derby points in the $150,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3) Feb. 3 at Santa Anita Park.
Fast out of the gate under jockey Flavien Prat, the Graydar colt opened up a clear lead in the 1 1/16-mile Lewis, but it didn't last. A trio of challengers—Dark Vader, Shivermetimbers, and Inscom—all came up to press the pace in the backstretch, but Lombo shrugged them off in the second turn and carried his speed all the way to the wire for a two-length victory.
"He ran a big race," Prat said of Lombo, who broke his maiden in a 6 1/2-furlong sprint Jan. 20 at Santa Anita. "They put a little pressure on him down the backside, but he was nice and relaxed. I worked him last week and he's got a lot of speed, (and) I was concerned he might want to go, but he was relaxed. That was my main concern, but he relaxed and then went on."
After he set a pace of :23.40, :47.26, and 1:12.20 through six furlongs, the Mike Pender-trained colt opened up a four-length lead in the stretch which he never was in danger of losing, and hit the wire in 1:45.41 to score at odds of 8-1. Ayacara, who was second to last in the backstretch, closed on the rail to pick up second, 2 1/4 lengths ahead of Dark Vader. Dark Vader was the only one of the three backstretch challengers who didn't fade harshly in the stretch, as favored Shivermetimbers finished seventh and Inscom came in last of nine.
"He's definitely a high-octane horse," Pender said. "Apparently Graydar had some of the same characteristics and Unbridled's Song (Graydar's sire) as well. He's just a big kid and (has) a little ADD to him, but he's starting to figure it out. When he does really figure it out, I think he'll be dangerous."
Lombo is the first graded stakes winner for Graydar, who will stand the 2018 season at Taylor Made Stallions for $7,500 live foal stands and nurses.
Peace, who was favored for most of the run-up to the race but went off as the slight second choice at 2-1, was never seriously involved. The Violence colt was far back in fifth in the backstretch and was encouraged to run by jockey Mike Smith, but never moved into contention and finished fifth, a half-length behind maiden Regulate.
"He stopped on me the whole race," Smith said. "I thought the blinkers would wake him up (he didn't wear them in his maiden-breaking win Dec. 30), but it backfired on us big time. I feel bad, because it was my idea. ... I mean, he felt great—wasn't even blowing at the end. I'm the only tired one. I was riding."
Bred in Kentucky by Twin Creeks Farm, out of the Johannesburg mare Burg Berg, Lombo now has a 2-0-1 record from four starts and $129,225 in earnings. He was a $75,000 purchase by Pender out of the Ocala Breeders' Sales March sale of 2-year-olds in training.