Bob Baffert has been down the Kentucky Derby trail enough to know that the first Saturday in May is light years away from Feb. 2.
Regardless, Baffert sends out one of his top Triple Crown prospects on Saturday when Flashback will go postward in the Robert. B. Lewis Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita.
Baffert, a three-time Kentucky Derby winner, understandably is taking a cautious approach with Flashback, even though the Lewis drew its smallest field—four—than in its 74 previous runnings.
Flashback, a gray son of Tapit, will be making his 3-year-old debut and only his second start in the Lewis. He broke his maiden last Dec. 8 as the even-money favorite against eight rivals in a seven furlong race at Betfair Hollywood Park for owners Gary and Mary West.
For Baffert, the Lewis is not necessarily about Flashback getting battle-tested in a field similar in size to the Kentucky Derby, which in recent years has drawn a capacity field of 20.
“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.”
The field for the Lewis, the fourth of 10 races Saturday: Little Jerry, Tyler Baze, 8-1; Flashback, Julien Leparoux, 3-5; Den’s Legacy, Garrett Gomez, 5-2; and He’s Had Enough, Mario Gutierrez, 3-1.