ARCADIA, Calif. -- The depth of trainer Bob Baffert's 3-year-old division will lead to multiple starters for the Hall of Famer in the $200,000 Robert Lewis Stakes next Saturday at Santa Anita.
Baffert will run Liaison, winner of the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park on Dec. 17, and Sky Kingdom, who was fourth in the CashCall and winner of an allowance race here Jan. 12.
On Friday, Sky Kingdom worked five furlongs in 58.40 seconds, the fastest of 67 recorded works at the distance. Ideally, Baffert said, he would have more racing options for his top Triple Crown hopes.
"I hate to run them against each other," Baffert said.
Liaison worked six furlongs in 1:11.80 at Santa Anita on Thursday, the fastest of 18 recorded works at the distance.
"He just keeps moving forward," Baffert said of Liaison.
The Grade 2 Lewis Stakes is run over 1 1/16 miles and leads to the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 7. Other candidates for the Lewis are Rousing Sermon and Empire Way, second and fifth in the CashCall Futurity; Groovin' Solo, a maiden race winner on Dec. 30; and I'll Have Another, unraced since a sixth in the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga in September.
Empire Way worked six furlongs in 1:14.80 at Hollywood Park on Thursday. The Lewis will be his first start on a dirt track after three starts on a synthetic track at Hollywood Park.
"I think I'm right where I want to be," said Mike Harrington, who trains Empire Way. "I don't know whether he'll be better on dirt, but I think he'll like it."
The Lewis is one of four major stakes next Saturday and Sunday.
Tapizar, winner of the Grade 2 San Fernando Stakes on Jan. 14, will be a heavy favorite in the $200,000 Strub Stakes for 4-year-olds over 1 1/8 miles. He may face Indian Winter, Prayer for Relief, and Ultimate Eagle. Mr. Commons is the top contender in the $150,000 Arcadia Stakes over a mile on turf Saturday. Mr. Commons won the Grade 2 Sir Beaufort Stakes on Dec. 26.
Game On Dude, second in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs in November, makes his 2012 debut in Sunday's $200,000 San Antonio Stakes for older horses over 1 1/8 miles. Game On Dude worked six furlongs in 1:11 on Friday, the fastest of 26 works at the distance.