Before Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita, there were some questions regarding Goldencents' ability to rate and show he can track the leader in a race and come home a winner.
This was because of the presence of the speedy Bob Baffert-trained Manando, expected to be sent aggressively to the lead by jockey Martin Garcia.
Those questions got an emphatic answer after the very talented three-year-old proved his trainer's words true after he tracked Manando, engaged him midway through the home stretch and drew clear for the win by 1.5 lengths.
As published yesterday by drf.com, trainer Doug O'Neill was certain that Goldencents didn't need the lead to win:
“I don’t think Goldencents needs the lead,” O’Neill said. “If someone wants to go crazy to the front, I think we can sit and let that horse go. If not, we can take the lead. He’s got that Lava Man combination of speed and stamina.”
There was an uneasy moment in the early stage of the race. Manando, starting from post five, started crossing down to the rail. Goldencents was drifting to the outside at the time and almost clipped his heels.
But jockey Kevin Krigger was able to get Goldencents to the clear on the outside of the first turn. After that, Goldencents settled in nicely in tracking position.
The other Bob Baffert-trained horse—Den's Legacy (with Garrett Gomez aboard)—was positioned in third along the rail through the backstretch, and was also in striking position of the leader.
Krigger never lost his composure as he kept Goldencents on an easy hold, even when Garcia made a slight pull with Manando as they started to reach the final turn.
Goldencents inched closer as they passed the final quarter-pole. When they turned for home, the battle with Manando was in full force.
Den's Legacy looked for a moment like he would squeeze through on the rail and challenge for the win, but was just able to outfinish Manando for second place.
Krigger and Goldencents drew clear on the outside to reach the wire 1.5 lengths ahead of Den's Legacy.
Dry Summer and Dirty Swagg completed the order of finish, but were never factors in the race.
This was not the best performance from Goldencents, as he wasn't stretched out fully at the end. But he was good enough to beat a good group.
This race should serve as a learning experience for Goldencents as he heads to the bigger Derby prep races.
This year, the Kentucky Derby put in place a brand-new qualifying points system that replaced the stakes earnings, with later races offering more points than earlier ones.
Before the Sham Stakes, Goldencents was in second place on the Kentucky Derby points leaderboard with 14 points. He trailed only unbeaten Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Shanghai Bobby, who has earned 20 points.
Today, Goldencents earned 10 points with his win and jumped to the top of the points Qualifier's Leaderboard with a total of 24.
The next Derby Prep race awarding points on the west coast is the Grade 2, $200,000 Robert Lewis Stakes on February 2.
Goldencents is a son of Into Mischief out of the Banker's Gold mare Golden Works. He is owned in partnership by Dave Kenney, the W.C. Racing stable of Josh Kaplan and Glen Sorgenstein, and University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino’s RAP Racing.
His trainer, Doug O'Neil, won last year's Kentucky Derby with J. Paul Reddam-owned I’ll Have Another and now has another legitimate Derby contender.
|Race Name: Sham S. - Grade: 3|
|Age Restriction: Three Year Old|
|Distance: One Mile On The Dirt|
|Track Condition: Fast|
|Winning Time: 1:36.50 Fractions: 23.00, 46.31, 1:10.06, 1:22.84|
|1||Den's Legacy||Garrett K. Gomez||2.60||2.10|
|Also ran: 4 - Dry Summer , 5 - Dirty Swagg|
|Scratched horses: Greeley Awesome (Trainer)|
|Winning Breeder: Rosecrest Farm & Karyn Pirrello|
|Winning Owner: W. C. Racing, Kenney, Dave and RAP Racing|
|Winning Trainer: Doug F. O'Neill|
|Wager Type||Winning Numbers||Payoff|
|$1 Pick 3||9-1-2 (3 correct)||7.80|
|$2 Daily Double||1-2||6.60|