The Robert Lewis Stakes at Nysos is a reminder of what the Kentucky Derby will be

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In this image provided by Benoit Photo, Nysos and jockey Flavien Prat win the $200,000 Grade III.

Nysos and jockey Flavien Prat win the Grade III $200,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita Park on Saturday. (Benoit photo via Associated Press)

It’s far too early to make any conclusions about this year’s Kentucky Derby, but based on Saturday’s four major prep races, it looks like the 150th Run for the Roses will be more like the NFL Pro Bowl in terms of being showing the top. competition. Can you say that the Preakness Stakes might be the best Triple Crown race?

The strange nature of this year’s Triple Crown season came in July when Churchill Downs added a third year to trainer Bob Baffert’s two-year suspension because he believed he had not shown enough grit to despite the fact that he had no idea of ​​breaking in those two. years. The suspension was due to Medina Spirit’s positive test for a legal drug that was banned on race day. Baffert has claimed that betamethasone was given to the colt in a topical ointment for a rash rather than through an injection into the joint.

Baffert filed multiple lawsuits, losing most before withdrawing any recent appeals in an attempt to show Churchill Downs that he was waving the white flag. Churchill Downs did not accept the move and in the process lost the public relations battle.

Read more: Bob Baffert will not transfer horses to other trainers for the Kentucky Derby

Now, with three months to go, the best horse in the country is undoubtedly eligible for the Kentucky Derby because of Churchill’s ban on Baffert. Some media say that this year’s Derby should be renamed 149½ or 150*.

It became clear when Nysos, the Baffert trainer undefeated in three starts, destroyed a field of nine to win Saturday’s $200,000 Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita by 7½ lengths. Meanwhile, at Gulfstream Park in South Florida, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Fierceness finished a disappointing third.

In the past two years, Baffert has mostly moved his best 3-year-olds to former trainer Tim Yakteen, so they could qualify for the Kentucky Derby. This year, in a show of solidarity, none of the owners representing the 18 Baffert horses nominated for the Triple Crown chose to move their horses.

Three horses entered Baffert in Saturday’s Lewis Stakes, which was reduced to two when Coach Prime was pulled.

“He came from there a little bit, but he was in a good spot,” Baffert told Santa Anita Publicity about Nysos. “I knew it was going to be a good distance. I had the other horse (Wine Me Up) hanging in there well. [Jockey Favien] Prat rode him with great confidence, he knows the horse well. I like that he has speed and he proved that he can do two turns. He has a great mind. He is a very good colt. You can just sit there and press the button at any time. It makes it a lot easier for the riders, but I’m still a little nervous.

“I liked the way my other horse ran [on the lead] because I thought he was going to run a big race today. Deep down I thought if [Nysos] He’s a good horse, he’s going to do it, and he did.”

Nysos, the most popular, paid just $2.20 to win on a $2 bet. Wine Me Up was second, followed by Scatify, McVay, Moonlit Sonata, Better Than Gold and Ace of Clubs. Because the Baffert horses were not allowed to score points, 30 points—20 for first, 10 for second—were left.

Fierceness, trained by Todd Pletcher and owned by Mike Repole, topped all the Kentucky Derby polls but did not deliver on Saturday. He was perfectly rated and in a position to enter the arena to win it all. But Hades ($20.40 to win), with Paco Lopez aboard, was not done among very slow fractions and went up in front as Fierceness could not keep up.

Domestic Product was second, followed by Fierceness, Inveigled, Dancing Groom, Otello and Sea Streak.

“It didn’t get off to a great start,” Pletcher told Gulfstream’s Fierceness publicist. “The inside horse hit him well and then he got caught and had to move him into the race and try to get the position we wanted, which we did about last. However, he had to overcome a very rough start to get there.”

Read more: National Treasure delivers another Pegasus World Cup win for Bob Baffert

The original plan for Fierceness was to miss the Fountain of Youth, Gulfstream’s next major prep, and wait for the Florida Derby.

In another 20-point Kentucky Derby preps, Mystik Dan ($24.80) won the $800,000 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn. Wynstock, trained by Baffert and Los Alamitos owner Dr. Ed Allred and senior Jack Liebau, last in the 11-horse field.

In New York, Uncle Henry rallied in the final 50 yards to pass El Grande O at the wire to win the $250,000 Withers Stakes at Aqueduct, also earning 20 Derby qualifying points.

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This story first appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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