Lewis first step for American Lion

ARCADIA, Calif. -- American Lion has become the forgotten 3-year-old in California. Staying away from the races for more than two months can do that for a colt's reputation in the instant gratification world of Kentucky Derby preps.

American Lion has not started since winning the Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue Stakes over seven furlongs on Nov. 21. He will return in the $150,000 Robert Lewis Stakes over 1 1/16 miles next Saturday, the first two-turn stakes for 3-year-olds at the Santa Anita winter meeting.

Trainer Eoin Harty wants to take a low-key approach to American Lion's comeback, but the Grade 2 Lewis will indicate how the Tiznow colt handled a brief break in late fall.

"I want to keep my eye on the big prize and use this as a stepping-stone," Harty said.

A winner of 2 of 3 starts for WinStar Farm, American Lion could have started in the high-profile $750,000 CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park last month, a race won by eventual champion 2-year-old male Lookin at Lucky. Harty said he skipped that race since American Lion was not a nominee to the CashCall Futurity, and would have needed to have been supplemented.

"The risk and reward had to be weighed there," Harty said.

Harty said that American Lion "didn't need the break," and that the colt has worked steadily since mid-December.

In the Lewis Stakes, American Lion will likely face Brady Blue Eyes, Caracortado, Dave in Dixie, Hawaiian Springs, Tango Tango, and Tiz Chrome, the winner of the Stuka Stakes at Hollywood Park last month.