Messier Much the Best in Robert B. Lewis Romp - petsitterbank

Messier Much the Best in Robert B. Lewis Romp

In a performance nearly identical to stablemate Adare Manor ‘s in the Las Virgenes Stakes (G3) earlier on the Feb. 6 card at Santa Anita Park, the Bob Baffert-trained Messier soared through the stretch for a 15-length romp in the $200,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3).

Owned in partnership by SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Robert Masterson, Jay Schoenfarber, Waves Edge Capital, Catherine Donovan, Golconda Stable, and Siena Farm, Messier broke his maiden impressively at second asking as a 2-year-old last October at Santa Anita before capturing the Bob Hope Stakes (G3) at Del Mar in his stakes debut. In his final start at 2, the son of EmpireMaker was beaten a length by Slow Down Andy in a roughly-run edition of the Dec. 11 Los Alamitos Futurity (G2).

A short-priced 3-5 favorite in the Lewis, Messier broke sharply from his inside post and darted for the lead while closely tracked by Sir London and Cabo Spirit . As the trio laid out a swift first quarter-mile in :23.24 and half-mile in :46.94, jockey John Velazquez gave a shake of the reins to Messier into the final turn and the colt began to steadily distance himself from his rivals. Cabo Spirit attempted to stay with Messier but the Ontario-bred powered away at the top of the lane, roaring home under a hand ride.

Messier clocked the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in a solid 1:42.89. Cabo Spirit finished seven lengths clear of Messier’s barnmate Wharton in third. The winner paid $3.20.

“(Assistant) Jim (Barnes) had Johnny work (Messier) for me once and he gave me some good input on him,” said Baffert. “He’s maturing, I could tell today that he’s growing, he’s getting bigger. You could tell when I put the saddle on him. He looked incredible, he looked the part. There were some good horses in there, they were legitimate horses.”

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“I got to work him three weeks ago, just one time though, and actually I got a good feel of him,” Velazquez said. “But today, Bob said to me, ‘We got two really good chances and I think these two horses are going to impress you today.’ I mean, he was not wrong. Right from the start I thought they were right today.”

When asked whether or not Messier would stay at home and be pointed to the April 9 Runhappy Santa Anita Derby (G1) Baffert responded, “I don’t know yet. It depends on my other horses to see how (they are). We have always gone with whoever is doing well that week (and he) gets on a plane or stays here. So right now, we will just enjoy this and I’m just happy to have a horse like this in my barn.”

Although the Lewis was worth 10-4-2-1 points to the first four finishers on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, Messier was unable to net any points owing to the fact that Baffert is serving a two-year suspension from Churchill Downs through the Kentucky track’s 2023 spring meet. However, since Messier was bred in Ontario, that makes him eligible to compete in Canada’s Triple Crown series for 3-year-olds, beginning with the Aug. 21 Queen’s Plate at Woodbine.

Bred by Sam-Son Farm, Messier is the third foal and first starter produced by the multiple stakes-winning Smart Strike mare Checkered Past . The dam has a yearling filly by candy ride and was bred to Authentic for 2022.

Messier increased his earnings to $285,600 from a 3-2-0 record in five starts. He was purchased for $470,000 by SF/Starlight/Madaket from the Sam-Son Farm consignment at the 2020 Fasig-Tipton Selected Yearlings Showcase.

Video: Robert B. Lewis S. (G3)

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