Recruiter marches to Lewis Stakes victory

Shoulda been the hunch play of the day.

On the day after Veterans Day, a horse with a military name, racing for a veteran, cruised to win the $100,000 James F. Lewis, III Stakes at Laurel Park.

Recruiter, a two-year-old son of Army Mule owned in part by Nick Sanna, a veteran, posted a good-looking 2 ¾-length victory in the Lewis, getting the distance in a solid 1:09.70 over a main track rated good. The win was Recruiter’s first in stakes company and ran his record to three wins from three starts and pushed his earnings to $126,900.

The win was also jockey Angel Cruz’s fourth of a fruitful day.

“It’s my first time winning four races in one day, and I’m just happy,” Cruz said.

Recruiter broke alertly, but Coffeewithchris, with Charlie Marquez aboard, rushed up inside to stake out the lead position. Coffeewithchris led Recruiter by a half-length after an opening quarter-mile in 22.53 seconds.

“It worked out perfect because I could sit off it,” Cruz said. “He settled really good for me today.”

Recruiter pressed his rival and then took charge rounding the turn. He led by 1 ½ lengths after the opening half-mile, extended the lead, and then was ridden out to the wire for the win, with Honeyquist giving willing chase for second, a couple clear of Heldish in third.

Off as the 6-5 favorite, paid $4.60 to win and topped an exacta that returned $9.90 for a one-dollar wager.

Sanna owns the horse in partnership with trainer Cal Lynch, whose barn continues to thrive with juveniles. The Lynch operation won with nine of 30 two-year-old starters at the just-completed Delaware Park meeting.

Recruiter won the James F. Lewis, III Stakes. Photo by Jim McCue.

“We’re really happy with it,” Sanna said. “I mean, Cal’s team did an absolutely fantastic job with this one.”

A year ago, Sanna’s Defend posted a sharp score on debut at Delaware Park but then finished 10th next out in the Grade 1 Hopeful at Saratoga. By contrast – and by design – Recruiter followed up a first-out win with an allowance score at Laurel Park before moving into stakes company today.

“This time, Cal wanted to be a little more careful,” Sanna explained. “Take our time a little bit, build some body underneath, steppingstones, you know? Hopefully, we can stretch him out.”

If he can stretch out – sire Army Mule won the Grade 1, seven-furlong Carter – Sanna and Lynch will have something to keep an eye on.

One race prior, Twice as Sweet scored impressively in the Smart Halo for two-year-old fillies, rallying under Feargal Lynch to win by 6 ½ lengths in 1:10.48.

“She’s small, she’s compact, and she likes to just get on with it,” Lynch said. “But she’s got an engine on her.”

Twice as Sweet now has two wins from four starts for trainer Brendan Walsh and owners Godolphin LLC, for whom she is a homebred, to go with earnings of $128,900.