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Lewis Stakes: Great Hunter ought to win
by Handicappers ( / Globeform (
Last update: 2007-04-20 03:44:03 (First published: 2007-03-02 12:08:02 )

Santa Anita 3 Mar: The Doug O’Neill trained Aptitude colt Great Hunter makes his first start of the year in the Robert Lewis Stakes (G2).

Though all his eight rivals have a fitness advantage, he should win the 8.5-furlong event. Formerly known as the Santa Catalina, this race was last year won by Brother Derek, who went on to take the Santa Anita Derby (G1).

Great Hunter improved on his sixth start as a juvenile, when winning the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) over 8.5 furlongs over the new polytrack surface at Keeneland, staying on really well at the end to beat Circular Quay by 1 ¾ lengths, with Street Sense back in third spot. His winning time was quite a bit better than that recorded by Bel Air Beauty in the Alcibiades Stakes (G2) 24 hours earlier.

Not that the Breeders’ Futurity form needed any indirect boosts. Four weeks later and we saw the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Churchill Downs, also over 8.5 furlongs, where the trifecta was filled by the same trio, albeit in reverse order. Street Sense was best in the Juvenile, beating Circular Quay by 10 lengths. Great Hunter, like the other two coming from off the pace but never as far back, ran on for third. He was 2 ¼ lengths behind Circular Quay, and 2 ¾ lengths in front of the fourth placed Scat Daddy, who had landed the Champagne Stakes (G1) on his previous start.

Prior to his Keeneland success, Great Hunter had been second three times in valuable events in California. After breaking his maiden at Lone Star Park (second start), he was 2 ¾ lengths behind E Z Warrior in the 6-furlong Hollywood Juvenile Championship (G3), 3 lengths behind Principle Secret in the 6.5-furlong Best Pal (G2) at Del Mar, and 1 ¾ lengths behind Horse Greeley in the 7-furlong Del Mar Futurity (G2). He was never far off the pace in any of these events, and in the Breeders’ Futurity, Great Hunter raced in fifth early on. At the Breeders’ Cup, he suffered some interference on the first bend, and dropped further back than he had become used to. That said, the pace was extremely strong, and deep closers dominated the finish.

Great Hunter’s sire Aptitude peaked at four; when he won the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) and Hollywood Gold Cup. As a 3-year-old, he ran second Kentucky Derby (G1) – behind Fusaichi Pegasus – and was also runner-up in the Belmont Stakes (G1). He has also sired Outperformance (G3 win on turf).

The Lewis Stakes favorite’s dam, the Roy daughter Zenith, won three races, and ran second in the Gardenia Handicap (G3). Zenith is a half-sister to the G3 placed minor stakes winner Im Out First.

Great Hunter performed to Globeform 114+ in his first season, and nothing like that level of form will be needed to win on Saturday.

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