This season’s Kentucky Derby prep race schedule takes horse bettors out to the West Coast this Saturday for the running of the 2017 Sham Stakes. This is one of the first tests of the New Year for some up and coming three-year old thoroughbreds to see if they have what it takes to be a legitimate Kentucky Derby contender.
Saturday's main event at Santa Anita Park is still taking shape with six entries listed as probable, but I have already found three horses that come together perfectly to form my trifecta pick for this year's Sham Stakes.
2017 Sham Stakes: Santa Anita Park
The Sham is a Grade 3 stakes race for three-year old thoroughbreds and this year's total prize purse has been set at $100,000. It will be contested on the dirt track at Santa Anita over a distance of 1 mile.
Some heavy hitters when it comes to the top trainers in the game will have a vested interest in this year's Sham Stakes including Bob Baffert with his entry American Anthem as my top choice to win. This newly turned three-year old Kentucky-bred colt is already carrying a 5.45 rating by Horse Racing Nation without a major stakes race under his belt as a juvenile. In his only start last season as a two-year old, he bested the field in a Maiden Special Weight race at Del Mar over a distance of six furlongs.
The mile length of this race will be his next progression towards competing in the longer races to come. American Anthem has quite a bit of potential coming from a strong pedigree that includes Bodemeister and Indy's Windy.
Next on my list for this Saturday's race would be trainer John Shirreffs' Gormley. This three-year old Kentucky-bred colt made some early noise as a juvenile with a victory in the Grade 1 Frontrunner Stakes at Santa Anita on Oct. 1 over a distance of 1 1/16 miles. This win qualified him for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at this same track in early November, but he faded to seventh against the ‘best of the best' in that race.
Gormley still carries the highest HRN rating in the projected field for the Sham at 6.92, but he comes into this race with something to prove. A pedigree of Malibu Moon, he has a progeny that can be traced all the way back to Seattle Slew.
Rounding out my trifecta play in this race is one of two probable entries by trainer Doug O'Neill; Term of Art. This three-year old Kentucky-bred colt has yet to earn a HRN rating despite the fact that he closed out his two-year old campaign with a solid victory in the Grade 3 Cecil B. DeMille Stakes at Del Mar over a distance of a mile on Nov. 27. He also qualified for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, but the added distance of that race proved to be too much to handle with a ninth-place finish.
This pedigree of both Tiznow and Miles of Stile appears to be better suited to the mile distance of Saturday's race, which could make him a very interesting pick at longer odds to stun the field with a win. In three previous races at this distance, he has two victories and one second-place finish.