Kentucky Derby

Sham Stakes Preview: American Anthem, Gormley Square Off

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The road to the $1 million Santa Anita Derby on April 8 will have its first graded stop on Saturday at Santa Anita, as Grade I winning Gormley and recent first-out maiden winner American Anthem head a group of seven newly turned 3-year-olds in the Grade III, $100,000 Sham Stakes, to be contested at a flat mile.

Two horses headline this event with the more accomplished of the two being Gormley. He was a 4 ¼ length first-out maiden winner going 6 ½ furlongs on Sept. 4 at Del Mar, then the John Shirreffs-trained colt by Malibu Moon took Santa Anita’s Grade I, 1 1/16 miles FrontRunner Stakes by three lengths in gate to wire fashion on Oct. 1 at odds of 10-1. Owned by Jerry and Ann Moss, he bobbled at the start and suffered his first loss when well beaten in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Nov. 5. Idle since, he’ll again get the services of Victor Espinoza, who’s been aboard for all three of his starts.

The other headliner is American Anthem. Trained by Bob Baffert, he made a solid run from off the pace to take his 6 furlong debut by a neck on Dec. 3 at Del Mar, earning a Sham-best last-out Beyer Speed figure of 86. A Kentucky-bred colt by Bodemeister, he’ll most likely be forwardly placed in his first spin around two turns. Bred in Kentucky by Winstar Farm, LLC and owned by Winstar and China Horse Club, he’ll be ridden for the first time by “Big Money” Mike Smith.

First post time for a nine-race card on Saturday at Santa Anita is at 12:30 p.m.

Top Choice

#1 American Anthem – We all know the deal here…Bob Baffert is absolutely loaded with 3 year old colts, and this will be the first that he unleashes in 2017. Baffert’s dominance doesn’t need to be explained, and he’s been quoted saying he likes this horse very much and thinks he’ll do well stretching out. His maiden win at Del Mar wasn’t anything fancy, but he ran as if there was plenty left in the tank. The bottom line is it’s very hard to go against Bob Baffert in these races, especially when he’s said he likes the horse. I’m excited to see what American Anthem shows us on Saturday.

Horses to Use in Multi Race Wagers

#5 Gormley – Obviously from a class standpoint this horse is head and shoulders above the rest of these. Two races back he won the Grade 1 Frontrunner Stakes over this Santa Anita oval so that fact alone makes him very hard to ignore. However, his performance last time out in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile left a lot to be desired. The good news is he’s a young horse that got a poor trip, but he got an education out of it. The bad news is he was beaten by over sixteen lengths. I think he’ll rebound here and run well, but I think the upside of American Anthem makes him more appealing to me.

Exotic Plays

#4 Colonel Samsen – Winner of two straight races including a small stakes at Golden Gate last time out. His speed numbers are decent, but obviously the glaring problem is the fact that he hasn’t ran on the dirt in six career starts. He might be classy enough to play underneath today considering the track could be off, but I don’t think he can beat the top two I have picked in this spot.

#2 Term of Art – With the rain possibly hitting Santa Anita once again this weekend it’s nice that Term of Art has some off track form as he won on a “good” track last time out in a Grade 3 race at Del Mar. Even though he won last time out in decent fashion, I can’t get over the fact he was totally blown out in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. While I do believe that race was loaded, he just didn’t show much of a sign that he can compete with the top class of the crop. Nice play underneath though.

Party Crashers

#7 Blabimir – Well lets face it his first two races were total disasters for this colt. He started with a fifth beaten by 10 lengths effort, followed by a race where he didn’t even make the finish line and was pulled up. However, last time out at Los Alamitos he looked like a different race horse winning easily over a decent Bob Baffert runner in Aristocrat. That effort earned this horse the second highest Timeform speed figure in the field so far so that fact might make him worth a small play. Obviously there are still major concerns, including stretching out for the first time, but the breeding suggests he might be decent going two turns.

Throw Outs

#3 Bird is the Word – Really weird entry here as he moved to the turf last time out and almost broke his maiden while running his best race by far. Now he’s back to dirt…and against stakes company…that makes little sense to me.

#6 Big Hit – Decent maiden special weight winner last time out, but that was 48 days ago at Del Mar. He’ll have to step it up a notch today, and his only effort at this distance was his worst race out of three. I’ll let him beat me.

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