July 23, 2024

Lombo uses early speed to upset Lewis

Lombo successfully handled the added distance of the Lewis to jump onto the Kentucky Derby leaderboard © BENOIT PHOTO

Saturday’s $151,380 Robert B. Lewis (G3) at Santa Anita looked open on paper, and the Kentucky Derby (G1) scoring race accordingly produced an upset courtesy of Michael V. Lombardi’s Lombo. Controlling the pace in his two-turn and stakes debut, the 8-1 shot took 1:45.41 to negotiate 1 1/16 miles on the fast track.

Lombo, who banked 10 points toward Derby 144, became the first stakes winner sired by Graydar. A once-beaten son of Unbridled’s Song, Graydar showed high speed to wire the 2013 Donn H. (G1), and the Taylor Made stallion has transmitted that early dash to Lombo.

Trained by Michael Pender and ridden for the first time by Flavien Prat, Lombo easily outfooted his Lewis rivals through an opening quarter in :23.40. Then longshot Dark Vader, slight 2-1 favorite Shivermetimbers, and Inscom all advanced to press through a half in :47.26. But Lombo cleared away from them again by the time he reached six furlongs in 1:12.20, and the race was effectively over.

Only Ayacara offered a stretch rally, cutting the margin to two lengths without threatening the winner. Ayacara added 4 points for his runner-up effort, bringing up his total to 5. Dark Vader checked in a further 2 1/4 lengths adrift in third, good for 2 points, and there was another 3 1/2-length gap to the maiden Regulate who earned 1 point in fourth.

Peace was a lackluster fifth, prompting Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith to blame it on the first-time blinkers. Next came Pepe Tono, Shivermetimbers, Blame the Rider, and Inscom.

Lombo’s second straight win advanced his scorecard to 4-2-0-1, $129,225. Seventh when debuting in a Del Mar turf sprint last November, he was a distant third to Bob Baffert’s well-regarded Ax Man in a New Year’s Day maiden on the Santa Anita main track. Lombo came back to break his maiden in style going 6 1/2 furlongs on January 20, and took another step forward here.

Bred in Kentucky by Twin Creeks Farm (which campaigned sire Graydar), Lombo has been sold at auction three times. He fetched his highest price, $110,000, as a Keeneland November weanling, slipped to $40,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July yearling, and finally went to Pender for $75,000 as a two-year-old in training at OBS March.

Lombo was produced by the Grade 2-placed stakes winner Burg Berg. The mare’s name comes from her sire, Johannesburg, and dam, the multiple Grade 1-placed stakes vixen Snowberg. This is the extended family of Grade 3 victors Astrology and Lunarpal.

Quotes from Santa Anita

Trainer Michael Pender on Lombo: “He’s definitely a high octane horse. Apparently, Graydar (his sire) had some of the same characteristics and Unbridled’s Song (Graydar’s sire) as well. He’s just a big kid and got a little ADD to him but he’s starting to figure it out. When he does really figure it out, I think he’ll be really dangerous.

“We’ve been training since November to get two turns. I knew he had intense gate speed…I knew he was going to break right on the muscle today and take them as far as he could.”

On his plans: “Santa Anita’s home, we’re going to do what’s in this horse’s best interest, run him out of his stall for Mr. Stronach and the Santa Anita fans is something I always plan on first and foremost.”

Winning rider Flavien Prat:  “He ran a big race. They put a little pressure on him down the backside, but he was nice and relaxed. I worked him last week and he’s got a lot of speed was concerned he might want to go, but he was relaxed. That was my main concern, but he relaxed and then he went on.”

Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux on runner-up Ayacara: “I love the way my horse finished. I had my choice between the winner (having ridden Lombo to his maiden win) and this horse, so I guess I picked the wrong one! Seriously, my horse is improving and he’ll getter better as we go longer.”

Hall of Famer Mike Smith on fifth-placer Peace: “He stopped on me the whole race! I thought the blinkers would wake him up but it backfired on us big time. I feel bad because it was my idea.

“He has so much hang in him and he just doesn’t want to pass that last horse. I know he has so much ability in him though, so I thought, let’s just put a set of blinkers on him to make him concentrate. And he did, in the morning. He’s been really aggressive in the right way since we put them on. I thought he’d pull me right up there with them today, but every chance he got, he tried to pull up.

“I mean he felt great, wasn’t even blowing at the end. I’m the only tired one; I was ridin’.”