The stakes calendar for three-year-old colts at Santa Anita Park, leading up to the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May, begins with the Grade 3 Sham Stakes on Jan 5. The Sham is a two-turn, one mile race on the dirt with a scheduled post time of 4:31pm ET. Both TVG (DirecTV channel 602 and Dish channel 405) and HRTV (Dish channel 404) will provide live television coverage.
The Sham Stakes is part of the official Road to the Kentucky Derby prep race series. The top four finishers on Saturday will receive 10, 5, 2 and 1 qualifying points; the top 20 horses in terms of overall points are guaranteed a spot in the starting gate for this year's Derby.
Let's take a look at the field for this year's Sham Stakes:
1-Den's Legacy (3/1): The owners plopped down $150k to purchase this colt at the 2010 Keeneland November Sale, and with a pedigree like his, it's not hard to see why he cost so much (by Medaglia d'Oro out of a War Chant mare). He had an absolutely sensational morning work at Santa Anita on Dec 28, running four furlongs in a blazing 46 and 2/5 seconds, the fastest of 76 horses to work the distance in the morning.
2-Goldencents (4/5): The odds-on morning line favorite, and deservedly so, following a nice gate-to-wire victory in the $1 million G3-Delta Downs Jackpot in his last start. With the exception of the horse to the far outside, Manadano, there doesn't look to be many horses with the speed to challenge this colt on the front end out of the gate. He's already proven he can get the distance and he'll be the one the rest of the field will be trying to catch in the final quarter mile.
3-Greeley Awesome (20/1): This colt comes into the Sham off of a nine-length victory in his last start -- that's the good news. The bad news? That race was for $40,000 maiden claimers. Even more bad news? It took Greeley Awesome seven tries before he was able to break his maiden. And the final piece of bad news: his only start on dirt was nowhere near good enough to beat this field.
4-Dry Summer (6/1): This colt tried dirt one time in his career and finished over 20 lengths behind the winner in the G1-FrontRunner back on Sept 29. Perhaps we can give him a pass on that race (although a review of the replay doesn't provide any clues as to why he ran so poorly), but he's already run solid races on turf and synthetic and I get the feeling he simply prefers a different surface. Tough call on a colt with a nice pedigree but questionable dirt credentials.
5-Dirty Swagg (12/1): Like Dry Summer, his only race on dirt came in the G1-FrontRunner and he didn't run a lick that day. He needs to show something on the surface before he deserves to see any of my money.
6-Manando (3/1): He has run four times in his career, but three of those races came on the synthetic surfaces at Del Mar and Hollywood Park. In his lone dirt race he finished sixth, over six lengths back of the winner. He has a good amount of early speed, which means it's up to jockey Martin Garcia to decide whether or not to engage Goldencents in a pace duel in the early stages. If they leave the favorite alone on the lead the race will be for second place. But attempting to challenge Goldencents early could be a recipe for disaster for Mandando.
It's not sexy and it's a bet that won't put anyone into retirement, but Goldencents is clearly the best horse in this field and should win unless he tosses in a major clunker. Den's Legacy could upset the favorite if he's able to uncork a career-best effort.