And They're Off: Sham Stakes Kicks Off New Year For Thoroughbreds

The field for this year’s Sham Stakes continues to take shape as the first week of the new year wears on. Early interest in this race from trainers such as Bob Baffert and Jerry Hollendorfer has caught the interest from horse bettors looking to get an early jump on this year’s Kentucky Derby Trail.

Tracking The Top Contenders

With every top juvenile contender turning 3 years old on Tuesday, Saturday’s Grade 3 Sham Stakes marks the debut for a few colts that ended 2018 on a high note. The total prize purse for this graded event is $100,000. It will be contested on the dirt track at Santa Anita over a distance of one mile.

Baffert is expected to have two entries in this year’s Sham Stakes headlined by Coliseum. This Kentucky-bred colt capped his juvenile campaign with a victory in a seven-furlong Maiden Special Weight race at Del Mar on Nov. 17. He covered that distance on dirt in 1:23.13 over Figure Eight and Railman.

Already tagged as one of Baffert’s more promising contenders heading into the 2019 Triple Crown racing season this spring, Coliseum has the highest Horse Racing Nation rating in the projected field for this race at 6.32. This sire of Tapit with a progeny going back to AP Indy would be making his major stakes debut if he is part of the official field.

The other top contender expected to run in the Sham Stakes is Hollendorfer’s Gunmetal Gray. Also bred in Kentucky, he has major stakes experience in two of the biggest races for juveniles. Following a victory in a one-mile Maiden Special Weight race at Del Mar in late August, he took second in the Grade 1 American Pharoah Stakes at Santa Anita the following month behind Game Winner at a distance of 1 1/16 miles on dirt.

Qualifying for the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs the first Friday in November, he ran out of the money in fifth place at 1 1/16 miles, with Game Winner winning that race as well. The son of Exchange Rate is also rated high by HRN at 6.22, but at the very least, he would need to finish in the money in Saturday’s main event at Santa Anita to take a step forward on the Kentucky Derby Trail.

One To Watch

Baffert’s other possible entry for the Sham Stakes is Much Better, but he might still sit this one out coming off a distance finish in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. One probable entry for Saturday is trainer Simon Callaghan’s Value Play. He comes into his 3-year-old debut with an HRN rating of 5.37, third-best on the projected list. The Kentucky-bred colt covered 5½ furlongs on the dirt at Los Alamitos in 1:02.59 to win a Maiden Special Weight sprint on Dec. 6. He bested the field by a full four lengths.

This pedigree of Algorithms also has a progeny going back to AP Indy as well as Danzig. He will be stepping up in class and distance is he runs on Saturday in what would be his major stakes debut.

Also mentioned in the projected field for Saturday’s main event is trainer Peter Miller’s Gray Magician. This colt is also coming off a MSW victory at Del Mar to close out his juvenile campaign.