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Sham Stakes Preview: Taishan Takes on Baffert Duo
Ernie Belmonte

Sham Stakes Preview: Taishan Takes on Baffert Duo

For the second straight time in Southern California, Honor A. P.‘s late scratch from a Kentucky Derby prep is causing buzz. Last time, it was the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) that he missed, and now it’s this Saturday’s Sham Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita Park. The show will go on with a field of six set to go off in race 5, with a local post time of 1:30 PM PT. 

Trainer Bob Baffert took advantage of the missing Honor A. P. last time when Thousand Words was able to capture the Los Alamitos Futurity. This time around, he’ll send out a pair of impressive maiden special weight winners in Azul Coast and Authentic. Azul Coast broke his maiden at Los Alamitos, despite a very wide trip throughout. He’ll break from post 4 with Joel Rosario aboard. 

As for Authentic, he won his debut by 1 1/2 lengths against maiden special weight company at Del Mar. That race was contested at the sprint distance of 5 1/2 furlongs, making the stretch out to a mile a major question mark. He comes in with a solid set of workouts, though, having posted a bullet work on December 22 over this track. Drayden Van Dyke will have the mount from the rail. 

The Baffert clan will have to deal with the Richard Baltas-trained Taishan, who also comes into this event off of an impressive maiden special weight win. His victory came at Santa Anita Park on November 3 going one mile, where he pulled away late to pick up the win. The second-place finisher in that race, Tizamagician, dominated a maiden special weight event on Wednesday, making Taishan’s win more impressive. Taishan will break from post 6 with Aaron Gryder in the saddle.

The full field form the rail out for this year’s Sham includes Authentic, Zimba Warrior, Uncaptured Hero, Azul Coast, Scoring, and Taishan. 

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Top Choice

#4 Azul Coast – This may have been one of the most impressive maiden special weight winners in Southern California last season. Despite a terrible trip that saw him very wide throughout the race, Azul Coast still strolled home to an easy 4-length victory in his debut. He must be a bit more professional here, as he cannot have that same trip against these types of horses and still win. However, it is good to know that the talent is there with this colt, which should give him every opportunity to win.

Horses to use in Multi-Race Wagers

#6 Taishan – After a poor debut at Del Mar, this horse rebounded in a big way last time out, taking home a maiden special weight going 1 mile at Santa Anita Park. That was enough to earn him a shot here, and his pedigree suggests that he could excel as the distances get longer. We’ll see if he is a worthy candidate for bigger races down the road, as he must beat a pair of highly-regarded Bob Baffert runners in this spot. 

#1 Authentic – Baffert seems to have been pointing for this race with Authentic as soon as he crossed the wire first at Del Mar in a maiden special weight in November. The colt has had a series of solid workouts over the local oval recently, so he should be fit and ready to go. His pedigree could become an issue as the distances get longer, but he should be able to effectively get a mile here. 

Exotic Plays

#2 Zimba Warrior – If experience makes a difference, then this horse has an advantage. He has five starts so far, including a solid third-place effort last time out in the Bob Hope Stakes (G3) at Del Mar. He looks to be a small cut below the top three, but with some improvement, he can hit the board at a solid price. 

Party Crashers 

None – Either of the two Bafferts or Taishan should win this race. Any other winner would be an upset hard to see coming. 

Throw Outs 

#3 Uncaptured Hero – After finishing fourth on debut in a maiden special weight at Los Alamitos, this colt dropped to the maiden claiming ranks and picked up a close victory at Del Mar. His early speed should make him formidable early, but can he stick around when the real running begins? That is the major question mark.

#5 Scoring – This colt has just one race under his belt, 202 days ago at Santa Anita when he was placed first via disqualification in a maiden special weight going 4 1/2 furlongs. Here, he must stretch out in distance, and you’d think that he might need a race. This looks like a tough spot for him.

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