Saturday, January 11, 2014


The 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.

First contested in 2001, the Sham Stakes winners who have contested the Kentucky Derby haven’t acquitted themselves well. In 2003, Empire Maker finished second in both races and in 2005, Giacomo was third in the Sham before a successful trip in the Derby.

A small field of six colts will contest this year’s edition of the one mile Sham Stakes, the first step onto the Derby Trail for California hopefuls. Derby points will be awarded and the contest is carded as the fifth race.

Two sons of Tapit are entered in the Sham. I'LL WRAP IT UP (Tapit - Sindy With an S, by Broken Vow) has been knocking on the door and finally won his maiden in his fifth start, a 1 1/16 mile race over the Hollywood Cushion. He’s recorded improving BRIS speed figures in his last three races. . I'll Wrap It Up’s dam is a G-3 winning sprinter.

ONTOLOGY (Tapit - Shytoe Lafeet, by King of Kings (IRE)) has been ambitiously placed in his last six starts, competing against graded stakes company on dirt, Cushion, Polytrack and turf with varied results. He finally won in his last start when dropped into a maiden race at a mile on the turf. Ontology’s dam is multiple stakes placed at 1/16 miles over turf. With Irish Champions King of Kings as his damsire, St. Jovite as his second damsire and Sir Ivor as his third damsire, Ontology has a very strong turf routing pedigree. His sole try over dirt resulted in a 15 length beating in the FrontRunner.

The most expensive colt in the race has been favored in all three of his starts. KRISTO (Distorted Humor - Capote's Crown, by Capote) broke through in front-running style in his last race, stretching out to 1 1/16 miles and galloping to a 6 ¾ length win. A $500K Keeneland yearling, Kristo’s stakes winning dam is a half sister to the Champion Sprinter Smoke Glacken and to the multiple graded stakes winner Smokey Glacken. Another half sister bore Robert Lewis Stakes winner Crown of Thorns.

LIFE IS A JOY (Globalize - Tadita, by Indian Charlie) holds the distinction as the only stakes winner in the field, plus the only entrant who didn’t win his last race. He ran off by 6 lengths in the Charlie Palmer Futurity traveling a mile over the Fresno dirt. Not exactly top shelf company. Off the board in the Golden State Juvenile and Real Quiet Stakes, he rebounded with a second place finish when shortening up in the King Glorious Stakes. Life Is a Joy’s full siblings are stakes placed over turf, Tappet and Cushion. Life Is a Joy appears a cut below here.

The final two colts won their debuts convincingly. TOP FORTITUDE (Top Hit - French Debutante, by French Deputy) professionally stalked between horses and drew clear in the stretch to win a 6 ½ length maiden over the Cushion. Despite being an Arizona-bred, Top Fortitude’s immediate female family is loaded with winners. He’s a full to multiple graded stakes winner Uh Oh Bango, stakes winner Top Hit and stakes placed French Debutante. Top Fortitude is also a half to multiple stakes winning veteran EZ Dreamer.

MIDNIGHT HAWK (Midnight Lute - Miss Wineshine, by Wolf Power (SAF)) was off slow in his debut, but in typical Baffert trainee style, pulled his way to the front to contest the lead. Midnight Hawk glided to a 6 ¼ length victory going 7 ½ furlongs over the Cushion track. He’s fired two post-race bullets and should be on his toes for the Sham.


Track bias: The track has been playing fair at a mile although the inside posts seem to have a slight edge.

A short field of six isn’t a good betting race. Kristo and Midnight Hawk might head for the front. I’ll Wrap It Up and Top Fortitude have shown ability to rate off of the pace. The other two don’t figure in here. Ontology is a turf horse and Life Is A Joy is out of his class range. He could get up for a piece if someone fails to run their race. One of two things will happen here. Either Kristo and Midnight Hawk will duel, or one of them will set a pedestrian pace. Midnight Hawk appeared touch speed crazy in his first start, pulling his way to the front. Baffert horses tend to do that as babies. Let’s go with a price on top. I’ll Wrap It Up has the highest late pace speed figure in the group and has recorded three consistently faster speed figures in each race. Any one of these four can win, so if your betting, go with a super box.

#2 I’LL WRAP IT UP (8-1)

#1 KRISTO (2-1)