Mike Pender might deserve trainer-of-the-month honors for what he accomplished Saturday at Santa Anita in sending out the 8-1 longshot Lombo to a two-length, wire-to-wire victory in the $150,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes for 3-year-olds, earning 10 points toward a possible start in the Kentucky Derby.
The son of Graydar cost $75,000 last March at the Ocala Breeders Sale, and he has been known to be a little wild.
"In November, he was doing cartwheels in the paddock — literally," Pender said.
Every day in the week before the Lewis Stakes, Lombo, named for his owner Michael Lombardi of Poway, was being schooled by Pender.
"He's definitely a high-octane horse," Pender said. "He's just a big kid and got a little ADD in him but he's starting to figure it out."
Lombo broke his maiden in his third start on Jan. 20 at 6 1/2 furlongs under jockey Kent Desormeaux, who could have stayed with Lombo but ended up on Ayacara, the second-place finisher trained by his brother, Keith.
"I picked the wrong horse," Desormeaux said.
Flavien Prat picked up the mount on Lombo, sent him to the front and never looked back in the 1 1/16-mile race. Dark Vader was third and Regulate fourth.
"He ran a big race," Prat said.
Prat had ridden two other horses in the race, Shivermetimbers, the favorite, and Inscom, but chose Lombo after being impressed following a workout.
There were four stakes races Saturday at Santa Anita, and the easiest winner was Roy H in the $200,000 Palos Verdes Stakes. Roy H, the Eclipse Award champion sprinter after winning five of his six races last year, cruised to a 3 1/2-length victory under Desormeaux in his 2018 debut at six furlongs. Trainer Peter Miller has plans for the 6-year-old to race in the Golden Shaheen in Dubai on March 31.
"The horse has been a model of consistency," he said. "I don't think I've ever had a horse put in seven top races in a row like he has against top quality horses. He's certainly the best sprinter I've ever trained."
In the $200,000 San Marcos Stakes, 4-5 favorite Itsinthepost gained a nose victory over Hayabusa One at 1 1/4 miles on the turf. Jockey Tyler Baze made an early move to take the lead going into the final turn, then got the head bob at the end.
"I make them chase me because then they're having to work that much harder if I open on them a little bit," Baze said.
Jockey Victor Espinoza rode Accelerate to victory in the $200,000 San Pasqual Stakes for older horses despite having to check his mount when briefly blocked on the backstretch in the 1 1/16-mile race. He sent Accelerate through an opening on the rail in the stretch as five horses battled for the lead. Accelerate prevailed by 1 3/4 lengths over Prime Attraction. Mubtaahij, ridden by Drayden Van Dyke, finished third.
"I thought I could take the lead, but when Drayden saw me try it, he completely shut me down," Espinoza said. "I bounced off the rail a couple of times. I took my time, tried a different technique and just waited until the end."