News and STORIES

New Prospects For Sham Stakes

Author: Don Mckee
Published: Saturday January 04, 2020
Now that some of the leading California-based 3-year-olds, including Storm the Court, Thousand Words, and Anneau d'Or, are skipping the $100,000 Sham Stakes (G3) Saturday at Santa Anita Park, there is new potential for Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) prospects. 

Five of the six entrants have taken maiden races their last time out, and that group includes the Bob Baffert-trained Authentic and Azul Coast. Both of those horses scored at first asking. Another two runners will come from trainer Richard Baltas, and they are Uncaptured Hero and Taishan. 

Baffert's Horses

Bob Baffert is a five-time Kentucky Derby and two-time Triple Crown winner. His stable is full of talented horses, and he has the 8-5 morning-line favorite in Authentic, an Into Mischief colt. He took a 5 1/2-furlong maiden race in 1:03.60 at Del Mar Nov. 9. 

The race was well rated with a 97 Equibase Speed Rating, and none of those horses that he defeated has won since. Three of them finished out of the money, and two others were third. 

Authentic is out of the Mr. Greeley mare Flawless, who took her debut by 13 1/4 lengths at seven furlongs. After that, she ran second in a mile allowance in her only two starts. 

Authentic is related to Expectations (by Speightstown) and Gitgo (by Bodemeister), two other winners. The former took a race at a mile and two others at seven furlongs, all in maiden claiming or claiming races. 

The latter has one victory in a maiden claiming race at 5 1/2 furlongs.

The Sham will be contested over a two-turn mile, and it will also be the first test of Authentic's stamina at that distance. 

He will break from the inside, where he will likely face pressure from the likes of Uncaptured Hero and Scoring. Back in June, Scoring took his lone start by 4 1/2 furlongs via disqualification. 

Authentic is owned by SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Frederick Hertrich III, John Fielding and Golconda Stables. That group joined Baffert to win the American Pharoah Stakes (G1) with Eight Rings in the fall. 

Azul Coast and Taishan

Azul Coast and Taishan have already taken races at a mile distance. Even with a six-wide trip, Azul Coast won by four lengths over a wet track rated good at Los Alamitos Dec. 8. 

Taishan took a hard-fought half-length victory at Santa Anita Nov. 3. In that race, he earned a 99 Equibase speed rating. 

To prepare Azul Coast for the Sham, Baffert worked him with grade 1-winning 2-year-old filly Bast. He breezed five furlongs in 1:00 1/5 Dec. 29 at Santa Anita. 

The Super Saver colt finished a neck behind her at the finish, eventually moving ahead on the gallop-out. Baffert has taken three of the past six runnings of the Sham. Back in 2014, he won with Midnight Hawk, then Collected in 2016, and McKinzie in 2018.

Joel Rosario will be the jockey in the Sham. He will replace Van Dyke, who will stay aboard Authentic. 

Baltas has liked what he has seen from Taishan under regular rider Aaron Gryder, and he is hopeful for the Sham. 

"I'm not concerned that Taishan is stepping up," Baltas said of the son of Twirling Candy. "It was his first time going long, and he won and got a good number.

"He's trained really well since then; he's had a bunch of time between races, and I think he'll give a good account of himself."

Other Runners

The field will be completed by Zimba Warrior, the only horse with stakes experience. He finished third in both the Sunny Slope and the Bob Hope (G3) stakes.

The Sham has been won five times by Baffert. The last two winners of the race were Gunmetal Gray in 2019 and McKinzie in 2018, and they both failed to make the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1). 

Shirreffs trainee Honor A.P. was set to run in the race, but he had to back out after suffering an injury. 

"He galloped well, then when he came back from his schooling, he was off in his right front," Shirreffs said earlier this week. "X-rays were OK, so we'll just have to wait and see."