Friday, January 4, 2013

The Sham Stakes

ShamThe Sham Stakes (G-3) was named in honor of the 1973 underdog who chased Secretariat through the Triple Crown and ultimately had his heart broken in the Belmont Stakes. He finished second to Secretariat, in the Kentucky Derby, despite bashing his head against the starting gate so hard he lost two teeth. His time under the wire was a sub 2:00 and faster than Monarchos' winning time in 2001. In any other year, Sham would have been a Triple Crown winner.

Previously held later in the year at 1 1/8 miles, the Sham stakes was shortened to 1 1/6 miles in 2011 and contested in mid-January. Last year, the race was shortened still further and is now held in early January. When the Sham was held at the original 1 1/8 miles, 2005 Kentucky Derby hero Giacamo finished third. Empire Maker, second in the 2003 Derby, also placed third in the Sham. Since the race was shortened, none of the winners or runners-up have made an impact on the Triple Crown.

Under the new Kentucky Derby points system, the victor of the Sham will earn 10 points, while the second, third and fourth place finishers will receive 4, 2 and 1 points, respectively.

goldencents Delta JackpotThis year's big horse in the Sham is Delta Jackpot hero GOLDENCENTS. The son of first crop sire Into Mischief had no difficulty stretching his speed around two turns, galloping to a front-running 1 ¾ length victory over the heavy favorite, Bern Identity. To be fair, Bern Identity had been bottled up through the stretch.

Goldencents may vie on the lead with his stablemate GREELEY AWESOME (Mr. Greeley - Dattts Awesome, by Awesome Again). The Doug O'Neil trainee totally outclassed a $40K maiden claiming field in his last, despite running greenly. With a BC Classic hero and two Kentucky Derby winners as his first three damsires, the colt has the pedigree to handle classic distances. His dam is a stakes winner at 1 1/8 miles and Greeley Awesome's female family is scattered with stakes winners.

Dens_LegacyWhat would a California stakes race be without a Baffert horse? The silver-haired trainer brings a last out maiden winner and a graded stakes winner into the race. DEN'S LEGACY has been out of the money in only two of his eight lifetime starts and he's made all except one start over synthetics or turf. He made a wide late move in the CashCall Futurity (G-1) to get up for third, 3 ¾ lengths behind Violence. It should be noted that Den's Legacy's worst finish was over the Santa Anita dirt in the Frontrunner Stakes.

Baffert's other runner is the last out maiden winner MANANDO (Bluegrass Cat - Mesmerizing Lady, by Unbridled's Song). The improving colt earned a front running 5 ¼ victory after stretching out to two turns. His unraced dam is a half sister to the multiple stakes winning sprinter Spring Meadow.

DIRTY SWAGran a deceptively good race in the Real Quiet. He was wide the entire way, got into a dog fight in the stretch, and was bested by only a length. In the Frontrunner Stakes, the son of first crop sire Street Hero was squeezed at the start and never got into the race. Dirty Swag has the pedigree to enjoy running long and should improve with time. However, his worst finish was over the Santa Anita dirt in the Frontrunner Stakes. Was it the dirt or level of competition?

DRY SUMMER showed promise last summer with a gutsy victory in the Oak Tree Juvenile Turf. A few weeks later, he was detoured to the dirt, where he didn't lift a hoof, trounced by over 20 lengths. A week later, the son of Any Given Saturday was thrown back onto the turf against superior colts in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf. Dry Summer still have to prove that he can handle the dirt, but he should fit with this level of competition.


Only three colts in the field have finished in the money over the Santa Anita dirt. Goldencents is the obvious class and speed of the race. He's fired three fast 6F moves over the surface and he's the one to beat. Manando has plenty of early speed and may use it against Goldencents. The improving colt also owns the highest late pace speed figure in the field, ten points above his stablemate Den's Legacy. If the top two get into a speed duel, Greeley Awesome or the improving Den's Legacy could spoil the party.

#2   Goldencents

#6   Manando

#1   Den's Legacy

#3   Greeley Awesome