This Saturday, horse bettors will turn their attention to Santa Anita Park for the next big stakes race on the schedule.
The 2016 Kentucky Derby Prep season got underway last Saturday with Flexibility winning the Grade 3 Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct while Awesome Banner bested the field of three-year olds at Gulfstream Part in this year’s Hutcheson Stakes.
This year’s Sham Stakes is part of an exciting race card at Santa Anita on Saturday and the following is a look at my top sports picks to finish in the money as a solid exacta bet.
Sham Stakes- Santa Anita Park
The Sham is a Grade 3 stakes race for three-year old thoroughbreds run on a dirt track over a distance of a mile. The total prize purse for this year’s event is $100,000.
A solid field of nine three-year olds has been assembled for this season Sham Stakes and the horse at the top of my list is Dressed In Herms. This Kentucky-bred gelding is trained by Janet Armstrong and I am looking for jockey Mike Smith to get the ride on Saturday. He is coming off a big victory in the Grade 3 Cecil B. DeMile Stakes at Del Mar in late-November to go along with a victory at this track on Oct. 10 in the Zuma Beach Stakes.
Between these two wins, Armstrong put this gelding up against some stiff competition in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf and the horse held its own with a fifth-place finish in a very strong field.
The top-rated horse in the field for the Sham with Horse Racing Nation is Found Money with a rating of 6.06. Trained by Doug O’Neill and ridden by Mario Gutierrez, this three-year old colt closed-out his juvenile career with a victory in the King Glorious Stakes at Los Alamitos on Dec. 12. He started his racing career with a win in a Maiden Special Weight race at Santa Anita in mid-May and he also won the Santa Anita Juvenile his next time out.
The big question with Found Money is can he take the next step and finish in the money in a graded stakes race after fading to fifth in the Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes at Del Mar on Aug. 8 only to place fourth in the Grade 3 Delta Downs Jackpot on Nov. 21.
Bonus Race- San Pasqual- Santa Anita Park
Another big graded stakes race at Santa Anita this Saturday is the Grade 2 San Pasqual for four-year old thoroughbreds and up. It has a total prize purse of $200,000 and it will be contested on dirt over a distance of 1 ½ miles.
The highlight of this year’s San Pasqual is an eight-horse field that includes former Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner California Chrome, who flirted with Triple Crown glory in 2014. Trainer Art Sherman is using this race as a prep for the Grade 1 Dubai World Cup in late March. The last time we saw this 5-year old California-bred colt race competitively was a second-place run in last year’s Dubai World Cup so apparently there is some unfinished business for one of the greatest thoroughbreds we have seen in recent years. He should go off as a prohibitive favorite for sports odds and the only mystery about this race is which other horse in the field will finish second.
My pick to give California Chrome the best run for his money is Hoppertunity. This 5-year old Kentucky-bred horse is coming off a second-place run in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs on Nov. 27. Trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by Martin Garcia, his current HRN rating stands at 7.96. Hoppertunity has finished in the money in his last three races including a second-place run in the Grade 1 Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita in late September. Another big plus for Saturday’s race is the fact that he is the defending champion with a victory in the San Pasqual last year.