Saturday, January 10, 2015

2015 Kentucky Derby Trail – Sham Stakes

KENTUCKY DERBY TRAIL 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. The well-bred colt finished second to Secretariat in the Kentucky Derby, despite bashing his head against the starting gate so hard he lost two teeth. Sham’s 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. Sham was a superstar in his own right, equaling the track record for 1 1/8 miles in the Santa Anita Derby.

Winners of the two-turn mile event haven’t had much impact on the Kentucky Derby. Since the Grade Three race was first contested in 2001, only two colts have hit the board in both races; Empire Maker finished second in both races and in 2005, Giacomo was third in the Sham before a successful trip in the Derby.

A field of eight colts will contest this year’s edition of the one mile Sham Stakes, the first step onto the 2015 Kentucky Derby Trail for California hopefuls. Derby points will be awarded and the contest is carded as the sixth race.

The kings of California racing, Bob Baffert and Jerry Hollendorfer, are noticeably absent. Instead, Peter Miller, the Wesley Ward of California, sends out three prospects, including the likely favorite, Calculator.


The Favorite:

CALCULATOR (In Summation - Back to Basics, by Alphabet Soup) has been a model of consistency and class while chasing American Pharoah in the Del Mar Futurity and Frontrunner Stakes, both G-1 events. Calculator’s unraced dam is a half to the stakes veteran turf sprinter ATTICUS KRISTY, his full sister stakes winner FIERY DANCER and to Lexington Stakes hero DISTORTED REALITY. This is the distaff family of Preakness champ SHACKLEFORD and his Grade 1 winning sister LADY JOANNE. Calculator was scratched from the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile due to a foot injury. However, he’s back in action and worked a pre-race bullet. Despite being a maiden, Calculator is the most accomplished colt in the field.


Surface Switch:

Two colts will try to add their names to the Derby Trail, but first, they must pass the basic test of wanting to run over dirt.

Only two other colts in the race own blacktype placings, both stablemates of Calculator. Neither colt earned their stakes earnings over dirt.

ROCK SHANDY (Lemon Drop Kid - Panthera, by Storm Cat) has made all three starts over the lawn, yet his pedigree is diversified to handle just about any surface. He’s a half to the stakes winning turf mare ANEGADA (by Arch). Rock Shandy dam is a half sister to Hollywood Derby hero and sire BRAHMS, and stakes winner OLYMPIC. Panthera is also a half sister to the hardy, popular La Reina, who won the Tempted Stakes (G-3) at a mile over dirt and was nosed out for the win by eventual Champion Ashado in the 1 1/8 mile Demoiselle as a two year old. Rock Shandy hails from one of the classiest female families around. His second dam QUEENA was 1991 Champion Older Mare. Her half sister TOO CHIC was also a Grade 1 winner. She and her daughters have produced G-1 winner CHIC SHRINE, multiple graded stakes veterans AL KHALI, SERRA LAKE, SOARING EMPIRE, HUNGRY ISLAND, EL PADRINO, SOMALI LEMONADE, and RASTA FARIAN. Rock Shandy fourth dam Remedia is a blue hen.


PAPACOOLPAPACOOL (Temple City - Sainttwok, by Saint Ballado) was part of the blanket finish in the Oak Tree Juvenile Turf, finishing third, a bare neck behind the winner. Papacoolpapacool is a half to juvenile stakes placed Dehaven. The gelding’s first crop sire Temple City gets winners over all surfaces and most of Papacoolpapacool’s half siblings are winners over dirt and or mud. There’s some minor blacktype in the third generation of Papacoolpapacool’s pedigree, but overall, this is a modest breeding.


Surface Switch Part Duex:

ST. JOE BAY (Saint Anddan - Dream Ride, by Honor Glide) outclassed maiden claimers by ten lengths over the Santa Anita dirt before switching to Del Mar’s Polytrack to finish third in the Bob Hope Stakes (G-3). He next finished fourth in the Cecil B. DeMille Stakes (G-3) over the lawn, beaten only two lengths for the whole enchilada and nosed out for third by his stablemate Rock Shandy. St. Joe Bay’s dam is a half sister to the multiple stakes winner sprinter OUTFLANKER. Other than that, there’s no blacktype in the immediate distaff line. St. Joe Bay’s third dam is three-time Champion mare SUSAN’S GIRL. St. Joe Bay has Rasmussen Factor inbreeding (inbred to a blue hen within the first five generations) to WEEKEND SURPRISE through her sons A.P. INDY, the sire of SAINT ANDDAN and A.P. Indy’s half brother HONOR GRADES, sire of HONOR GLIDE. So why is this important to the handicapper? Rasmussen Factor occurs in roughly 4% of the racing population, yet 11% of the stakes winners are inbred to blue hens. Approximately 10% of Grade 1 winners carry this type of inbreeding.


PIONEEROF THE WEST (Pioneerof the Nile - Del Mar Cat, by Forestry) was second over the dirt before winning his maiden on Polytrack. Next out, he bombed in the Eddie Logan on the lawn and he’s turning around in 15 days. The colt is modestly bred with no blacktype winners in his first two generations. Corey Nakatani has had the most success with this colt and will be back on board.


Trying to Step Up:

The remainder of the Sham Stakes is filled with last out maiden winners or colts who were unplaced in other stake races. Six of the last ten Sham Stakes heroes were last out maiden or allowance winners.

ROCKINATTEN (High Cotton - Suite Ten, by Rock Hard Ten) added blinkers and stretched out for his maiden win at Calder…uh, Gulfstream Park West, in his last start. After bolting to an 8 ¾ length victory, the colt was sold and relocated to the barn of Doug O’Neil. There’s no blacktype in his immediate distaff family, however, Rockinatten’s second dam is a half sister to the veteran handicap horse STUDENT COUNCIL.


UNBLUNTED (Sharp Humor - Bright Orange, by Bright Launch) won his maiden at Santa Anita but in his first try against winners over Tapeta in the Gold Rush Stakes, the colt was wide and finished fifth. Like many others in here Unblunted is non-descript. His dam is a half to a minor stakes winner, but overall, Unblunted has a modest distaff line.


HERO TEN ALL (Rock Hard Ten - Silky Smooth, by Mr. Greeley) won his maiden at second asking when stretching out to a mile at Los Al. His dam is a multiple stakes winning turf sprinter/miler and she’s a half sister to Kentucky Cup Classic Stakes hero SHANIKO, who set a new track record for 1 1/8 miles in that Grade 2 event. Hero Ten All’s second dam is a stakes winning half sister to the dam of Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf heroine SHARED ACCOUNT.


Since the inception of the Sham Stakes, all winners have finished fourth or better in their prep race. Nine of the last ten winners won their last start.

There is a very strong speed bias at Santa Anita this meet. 67% of the pace setters have won. No mid-pack runners or closers have been successful. The horse to beat is Calculator.

CALCULATOR is the horse to beat – he has the class, running style and is facing a much softer field. Today could be the day that he finally steps foot in the winner’s circle. ROCKINATTEN is the second favorite, but I’m wary of this guy. His final time in Florida was average and the field of $42K maidens was very suspect. Additionally, O’Neil only wins 6% first time out with his barn. St. Joe Bay breaks from post #1 and should be right there in the mix. HERO TEN ALL has the wrong running style, but he’ll be picking them up late and can ruin somebody’s trifecta. Throw out that last by Pioneerof the West and his speed figures aren’t all that bad. ST. JOE BAY breaks from post #1 and has the running style to be dangerous. If PAPACOOLPAPACOOL handles the dirt, he could surprise them all!


#8 HERO TEN ALL (4-1)


#2 Pioneerof the West – longshot pick (12-1)