Every top juvenile thoroughbred hoping to make a mark on this year’s Kentucky Derby Trail turned three on New Year’s Day. This Saturday afternoon at Santa Anita Park, seven of those colts are slated to compete in the $100,000 Sham Stakes as the first big race for three-year old’s this year.
Some of the best trainers in horse racing will be testing the waters with one or two of their top prospects to add even more excitement to the featured race on Santa Anita’s Saturday card. The following three entries are at the top of my list when it comes to cashing in a winning trifecta bet.
2019 Sham Stakes - Santa Anita Park
The Sham is a Grade 3 stakes race open to three-year-old thoroughbreds. The total prize purse for this year’s event has been set at $100,000 and the race will be contested on the dirt track at Santa Anita over a distance of one mile.
Bob Baffert was the trainer behind Justify’s incredible run to the 2018 Triple Crown and he has two entries in this race as the starting point for this year’s famed racing series. The three-year-old that I have winning this race is Coliseum. This Kentucky-bred colt will break from the No. 5 post with jockey Joe Talamo getting the ride. While his juvenile resume is rather limited, he looked pretty strong over seven furlongs in a recent Maiden Special Weight victory at Del Mar on Nov. 17. He covered that distance on dirt in 1:23.13 over Figure Eight and Railman.
This son of Tapit with a progeny that goes back to AP Indy comes into his three-year-old debut with the highest Horse Racing Nation rating in the field at 6.45. This will also be his first chance to show what he can do at a longer distance of one mile.
My second choice for this year’s Sham would be trainer Jerry Hollendorfer’s, Gunmetal Gray. Breaking from the No. 6 post with veteran jockey Mike Smith aboard, this Kentucky-bred colt finished fifth in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs on Nov. 2. Prior to that race, he placed second in the Grade 1 American Pharoah Stakes at Santa Anita on Sept. 29. Both of these races were contested at 1 1/16 miles which is an added plus for Saturday’s run.
Sired by Exchange Rate, this three-year-old also has a victory in a one-mile Maiden Special Weight race at Del Mar on his juvenile resume. He comes into this race as the most experienced colt in the field and his HRN rating of 6.22 is the second-highest among the seven entries set to run in this year’s Sham.
Trainer Keith Desormeaux has a pair of entries in Saturday’s main event at Santa Anita with Sueno breaking from the No. 1 post and Easy Shot starting fourth. However, I am going with Baffert’s other entry Much Better as my third choice rounding out a trifecta pick. Ridden by jockey Drayden Van Dyke out of the No. 7 post, this Kentucky-bred colt will be racing for redemption after fading to back of the field in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. This disappointing run followed a second-place finish on the turf at Santa Anita in the ungraded Zuma Beach Stakes over a distance on a mile on Oct. 8.
As a pedigree of Pioneerof the Nile with a progeny that goes back to Unbridled, he started his racing career at Del Mar with a victory in a six-furlong Maiden Special Weight race on dirt. His HRN rating coming into this race is set at 5.10.