For this year, the Kentucky Derby debuted a brand-new qualifying points system that replaced the stakes earnings with the later races offering more points than the earlier ones.
The Grade 3, $100,000 Sham Stakes run this Saturday at Santa Anita is the first official Derby Trail race of the year, worth 10 points for the winner, four points for second place, two points for third place and one point for fourth place.
The Sham is at one mile. All of the Derby qualifying races are at a mile or more, and they include races over the dirt, turf or synthetics.
Trainer Doug O'Neill won last year's Kentucky Derby with J. Paul Reddam-owned I’ll Have Another. This year, he sends out in the Sham Stakes his talented colt, Goldencents, who is owned by W.C. Racing, Dave Kenney and RAP Racing (of Louisville coach Rick Pitino).
Goldencents currently stands second on the Kentucky Derby Points Leaderboard with 14 points. He trails only unbeaten Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Shanghai Bobby, who has earned 20 points for trainer Todd Pletcher and owners Starlight Racing, Mrs. John Magnier, Michael B. Tabor and Derrick Smith.
Goldencents earned his points by winning his last start at the the Grade 3 Delta Downs Jackpot and finishing second on the Champagne Stakes to Shanghai Bobby.
He is the heavy favorite to win the Sham, something he can achieve by replicating the effort shown on any of his three starts. Regular jockey Kevin Krigger returns to ride him.
For this race, he turned in an eye-popping, bullet six-furlong work in 1:10.2 on December 27 over the Santa Anita track.
A victory would propel him to the points lead with 24.
Bob Baffert presents two horses to challenge the favorite, Den's Legacy and Manando.
Den's Legacy won the Grade 3 Generous on turf at Hollywood Park two starts ago. He then finished third at Hollywood Park's Grade 1 CashCall Futurity over a synthetic surface to unbeaten Violence.
He was forced four wide into the stretch, which could have cost him second place as he hit his best stride late.
The question mark with him is that on his lone dirt start, he fired his worst career race in Santa Anita's Grade 1 FrontRunner. At least he has been drilling his works for this race over dirt, highlighted by the bullet 46.2 over four furlongs on December 28.
Jockey Garrett Gomez retains the mount.
Manando broke his maiden on his last start going gate-to-wire against maidens at Betfair Hollywood Park. That was his first race around two turns after going sprinting for his first three.
He is likely to put pace-setting pressure on Goldencents in the early going and could prove to be a legitimate threat. His Beyer Figures have improved with each start, and he earned a career-best 89 for his last effort.
Jockey Martin Garcia gets the call back aboard.
Dry Summer's last start was at the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, and he was forced out on the turn and had to run three wide into the stretch ending up with nothing at the end.
He ran without Lasix on that race and is back on it for this race.
But he made his best efforts on his second and third start over synthetic and turf surfaces, beating Title Contender and Power Broker, respectively.
He was then moved to run his only race on conventional dirt at Santa Anita for the Grade 1 FrontRunner Stakes and finished eighth, more than 20 lengths behind.
Dirty Swagg finished five lengths behind eventual Del Mar Futurity winner Rolling Fog on his third start. He has yet to challenge against graded-stakes company, failing to finish beaten less than 12 lengths on three tries.
Long shot Greely Awesome is the other Doug O'Neill trainee in the race. He just broke his maiden on his last start after seven tries against maiden competition each time. He needs a big move forward in performance to win here.
Santa Anita | Third Race | Post Time: 1:31 p.m. PT
Sham Stakes | Grade 3 | Purse: $100,000
Distance: One Mile
|1 ||Den's Legacy ||Garrett K. Gomez ||Bob Baffert ||3/1|
|2 ||Goldencents ||Kevin Krigger ||Doug F. O'Neill ||4/5|
|3 ||Greely Awesome ||Mario Gutierrez ||Doug F. O'Neill ||20/1|
|4 ||Dry Summer ||Lasix-on ||Joseph Talamo ||Jeff Mullins ||6/1|
|5 ||Dirty Swagg ||Blk-on ||Tyler C. Baze ||Myong Kwon Cho ||12/1|
|6 ||Manando ||Martin Garcia ||Bob Baffert ||3/1|
Morning Line odds by drf.com.