If you enjoy athletic excellence, this Hillbilly turf writer has a suggestion…YouTube the Robert B Lewis Stakes and check out the performance by Messier.

Run on February 6 at Santa Anita, this grade 3 mile and a sixteenth race has become a springboard for young three-year-old colts. Having enjoyed two wins and two seconds as a two-year-old, this Bob Baffert trained son of Empire Maker had shown plenty of promise. Now that the calendar has turned, the hall of fame conditioner was looking for a bit more against a compact but talented field.

Like any athlete, some horses get better with age as they mature while others may go the other way. When the gates opened and Messier skated around that Southern California dirt, it was easy to see his direction.

Breaking alertly under jockey John Velazquez, this grandson of Smart Strike used his natural speed and made the lead. Pressed by both Sir London and Cabo Spirit, they were not going to allow Messier to have things his own way.

Rolling through the far turn, the two early challengers began to give way. Continuing to stride with the power of a breakaway locomotive, Messier high-sticked his way into the home stretch in complete command. Rolling toward the wire with athletic excellence, the only thing dropping more than the opposition were the jaws of the on-lookers.

Crossing the finish a widening 15 lengths in front, Johnny V simply just had to hold on. Going off as the 3 to 5 favorite, Messier was expected to win, but few expected this kind of display. The real payoff here was not the $3.20 he returned on a $2 investment, but rather that oh my performance he treated us to.

After his colt put on this dazzling display in his three-year-old debut, his trainer summed it up succinctly. “He’s the real deal”, says the all-time leader in graded stakes wins by a trainer.

Mr. Baffert…I think you are correct!

Messier and jockey John Velazquez win the Grade III, $200,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes, Sunday, February 6, 2022 at Santa Anita Park, Arcadia CA.