Handicapper's Corner: SHAM STAKES (G3)
By: Laurie Ross
Betting against the favorites in the Sham Stakes
The Sham Stakes (G3) 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.
Overall, the Sham Stakes victors, with the exception of Colonel John, have continued their careers as sprinter/milers.
This year, a field of nine three year old colts will face the starter. A third of the field is trained by Doug O’Neil, while two others are conditioned by Bob Baffert. Since 2001, Baffert has visited the Sham Stakes winner’s circle three times, the last was in 2014 with Midnight Hawk. O’Neil’s sole Sham victory came the year before with Goldencents. A 2016 Kentucky Derby qualifier, the winner will receive 10 points.
The two morning line favorites last raced in the Cecil B. DeMille Stakes (G3) over the lawn and will attempt to transfer their form to dirt.
COLLECTED (City Zip - Helena Bay (GB), by Johannesburg) has pressed the pace in both of his starts. He grabbed the lead at the top of the stretch of the one mile Cecil B. DeMille, but couldn’t hold off Dressed In Hermes, who bypassed him to win by 1 ¼ lengths. Although Collected has a strong turf pedigree, his full brother Zip It Up managed to win once in five attempts over the dirt. However, as is often the case with turf horses, the win was over a sloppy track.
DRESSED IN HERMES (Hat Trick (JPN) - Elusive Fashion, by Elusive Quality) has carved out a nice little career over the lawn as a stakes miler. He sandwiched a fifth place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvie Turf between victories in the Zuma Beach and Cecil B. DeMille. The fashionable colt’s initial start over the dirt resulted in a distant fourth place finish behind Exaggerator. Although two of his half siblings won once each over the dirt, Dressed In Hermes’ distaff line is solid turf. The colt has a chance to hit the board, based on his class.
Can pull the upset:
FOUND MONEY (Square Eddie - Chanel My Belle, by General Meeting) has the best chance of the O’Neil trio to find the winner’s circle. The son of Square Eddie has won or placed in six of seven starts, all over the dirt and he’s 2-2 at Santa Anita. His only off the board placings were against 2YO Champ Nyquist in the Best Pal and behind Exaggerator in the Delta Jackpot. There are no colts of that caliber in the Sham. Found Money owns the only blacktype in three generations of his distaff line and owes his class to his sire.
SEMPER FORTIS (Distorted Humor - Rebridled Dreams, by Unbridled's Song) has the best pedigree in the bunch. He’s a half brother to last year’s Blue Grass Stakes (G1) hero Carpe Diem, Dixiana Breeders' Futurity winner J. B.’s Thunder and to the multiple Group winner Doncaster Rover. The O’Neil trainee needed some time to get his act together. After off the board placing in his first three starts, Semper Fortis won a maiden claimer at Del Mar and came back to win an optional claimer at a mile by a measured ½ length. The dark bay colt owns the highest late pace speed figure in the race and could take another step up here.
LET'S MEET IN RIO (Flatter - Rio Carnival, by Storm Cat) may be Baffert’s best shot of adding another Sham Stakes trophy to his collection. After two off of the board finishes in sprints – in which he had good excuses, the son of Flatter stretched out to win his maiden at a mile. His dam was off of the board in two starts in England, yet she’s a half to a French Group 1 winner and an English Group 3 router. The colt’s second dam Zenda won a French Group 1 stakes and finished second in the Q.E. II Challenge (G1) at Keeneland. Despite all the turfy-ness in his background, Let’s Meet in Rio may do well over the dirt and can step up here. He worked a second to last bullet 4F and should be sharp for Baffert. His late pace speed figure is equal to that of Found Money.
Filling out the Exotics:
LAOBAN (Uncle Mo - Chattertown, by Speightstown) is still a maiden after two attempts. After setting the pace at a good clip in his last start at a mile, the son of leading freshman sire Uncle Moe tired badly, blowing a five length lead to finish second to Let’s Meet in Rio by 1 ½ lengths. Laoban’s dam is a stakes placed sprinter. She’s a half to That’s How I Roll, a stakes winning sprinter and to Santa Ysabel Stakes runner-up Bluegrass Chatter. The second dam Chatter Chatter is a multiple stakes winning sprinter and she’s a half to the dam of Grade 1 winning veteran I’m a Chatterbox. Laoban has two stamina breezes under his girth and he should be fit to handle the distance, if he wants to run that far. He could improve enough to grab a piece of the pie.
SORRYABOUTNOTHING (Repent - Royal Card, by Chapel Royal) was beaten by a determined neck in his second start after having to steady. He was placed first through DQ. After that strong effort, O’Neil tossed the colt into the Los Al Futurity where he was never a factor. Sorryaboutnothing’s dam is multiple stakes placed and there’s minor stakes winners scattered throughout the colt’s pedigree. The dark bay gets first time blinkers and he could bounce back to earn a minor award.
I'MALREADYTHERE (Crown of Thorns - Wildfire Ruby, by Wild Event) has hit the board in five of six starts, but his only win came in maiden turf sprint at Gulfstream Park. He was outclassed by five lengths in the Del Mar Juvenile Turf Stakes by Hollywood Don, but did return with a good effort in the Zuma Beach Stakes. I'malreadythere hasn’t proven as effective over the dirt. He’s been beaten a combined 18+ lengths in three starts over the dirt, including his last start, a 7 ¼ length drubbing by Mor Spirit in the Los Al Futurity. Previously, he was third, four lengths behind Towes On Ice in the Bob Hope Stakes. I'malreadythere owns the only blacktype in two generations of his distaff line. He’s a nice colt, but Hollendorfer is trying to make I'malreadythere into something he’s not. The colt has the willingness to try and could pick up a check for third or fourth place.
RARE CANDY (Twirling Candy - Bold Pegasus, by Fusaichi Pegasus) won and placed in two maiden sprints over the lawn, but he just isn’t stakes race caliber. He was tossed into the deep end in his initial dirt attempt, which was the Los Al Futurity. He managed to finish fourth, a half length behind Hollywood Don in third, but both had a fading view of Nyquist and Swipes hindquarters. Rare Candy’s second dam Bold Lady Anne won the Churchill Debutante and placed in the Spinaway (G1) at two, and did well in stakes as a three year old, however Rare Candy’s dam is unraced and his and half siblings haven’t shown a whole lot.
The day may be overcast, but no rain is in the forecast. The track should be fast.
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. Let’s go with an O’Neil exacta.
#4 FOUND MONEY (6-1)
#5 SEMPER FORTIS (8-1)
#3 LET'S MEET IN RIO (6-1)
#9 COLLECTED (3-1)
$100 to bet:
$10 WP #4 (at 4-1 or higher)
$10 WP #5 (at 4-1 or higher)
$10 WP #3 (at 4-1 or higher)
$2 Exacta box ($12): #4, #5, #3
$2 Tri box ($12): #4, #5, #3
$0.50 Super box ($12) #4, #5, #3, #9
$1 Super Keys ($28):
#4/ #5, #3/#5, #3/ #9, #6, #7, #8
#5/#3, #4/#3, #4/ #9, #6, #7, #8
#3/#4, #5/#4, #5/ #9, #6, #7, #8
Total: $94, $6 left for a drink