Originally written on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 8/9/14
As Horse Racing, and the rest of the world, turns the page to 2013 that, in turn, means I will be focusing back on the three year old division and the road to the 2013 Kentucky Derby. It starts this weekend as we will be taking a closer look at the 2013 Sham Stakes (for three year olds) at Santa Anita Racetrack where Goldencents will be installed as the morning line favorite. In case you haven’t notice in the past few years, I generally focus on the three year old division from January thru June (The Belmont Stakes), then from June to December its wide open and I try to touch on all the other divisions.  Anyway The Sham, which is run at one mile, is the first race in a series of races that culminate with the 2013 Santa Anita Derby on April 6 and all with the May 6 Kentucky Derby as the ultimate goal. In case you aren’t familiar with the races’ namesake, Sham, who was best known for spending the spring of 1973 chasing the great Secretariat around Churchill Downs, Pimlico and Belmont Park in their Triple Crown series, was actually and amazing individual. Good looking, fast and an actually a blood cousin to Secretariat, Sham stood 16.2 hands and like his cousin, had a heart twice the size of the normal horse both in his chest (his heart weighed 18 lbs where the average thoroughbred’s weighted about 9 or 10 lbs).and the one between his ears. Prior to the Kentucky Derby, Sham won the Santa Catalina Stakes (February 12) and five weeks later he cruised to victory in the Santa Anita Derby (March 31) easily defeating then west coast Kentucky Derby favorite Linda’s Chief.  After the Santa Anita Derby, Sham was shipped east to take on Secretariat in the Wood Memorial Stakes. But the trip was bitter sweet, he ran a game second to Angle Light (who was allowed to coast along on an uncontested early lead) but beat the Secretariat (who finished third). At the start of the Kentucky Derby that year, Sham smashed his face on the starting gate at Churchill Downs, losing two teeth in the process. Although bleeding profusely throughout the entire race, Sham showed great heart and determination while giving Secretariat quite a run for his money. Sham finished just 2 1/2  lengths behind Secretariat in second. When asked about what effect the starting gate accident had on Sham, Jockey Laffit Pincay said, “It’s difficult to see how he could have run much better than almost 1:59 4/5, and yet, logically, hitting his head on the gate and losing the teeth couldn’t have helped him.” (At the time no horse had ever ran a sub 2:00 minute Kentucky Derby, in 1973 there were two to do….the first two finishers) In the Preakness two weeks later, Sham was a victim of “the move”. Sham broke well in the Preakness and was amongst the early leaders yet running comfortably. Secretariat dropped back towards the back of the six-horse field, which is exactly what everyone expected as the race unfolded in the beginning stages. However, we didn’t expect what happened next. Secretariat’s jockey Ron Turcotte, sensing the pace was slow, was not about to allow the leaders (and especially arch-rival Sham) to lope along on an easy lead. As the field settled into the first turn (and hoping to relax for the long 1 3/16th miles race) Turcotte made his move…. In perhaps the most devastating bursts of speed I’ve ever seen, Secretariat unleashed a powerful last to first, three-wide move while rounding the first turn and, in the blink of an eye, was on the early lead.  He never looked back and The Daily Racing Form’s Chart summed up the second half of the race like this: “Secretariat was not threatened thereafter (the move) and confidently ridden to the finish.” As hard as Sham tried, he couldn’t get to “Big Red” and, once again, was beaten by 2 ½ lengths. In the Belmont Stakes three weeks later, poor Sham didn’t know what lied ahead for him. Called the greatest feat by any athlete (on two legs or four) he would once again fall victim to Secretariat except this time is was in his tour de force Belmont. I actually did a special on that race that can be viewed here: http://isportsweb.com/2012/07/18/horse-racing-amazing-performances-secretariats-1973-belmont-stakes/ Sham did not race again after the Belmont Stakes. He was given some time off but, while training for rematch with Secretariat at Saratoga, suffered a hairline fracture of his leg and his racing career officially ended. Sham was first sent to stud duty at Spendthrift Farm and later to Walmac International near Lexington, Kentucky. He died of a heart attack on April 3, 1993, at the age 23. It is in my opinion that Sham, like the ill fated Alydar, just came along in the wrong year and that each of them probably or might have been Triple Crown winners in their own rights. That’s how special Sham, and Alydar for matter, was.  Santa Anita Park – Saturday, January 5, 2013 Race 3 – 1:31 PM     Sham Stakes (Grade III) Purse $100,000 For Three-Year-Olds One Mile   PP Horse A/S Med Jockey Wgt Trainer 1 Den’s Legacy 3/C L G K Gomez 120 B Baffert 2 Goldencents 3/C L K Krigger 120 D F O’Neill 3 Greeley Awesome 3/C L M Gutierrez 118 D F O’Neill 4 Dry Summer 3/R   J Talamo 118 J Mullins 5 Dirty Swagg 3/R L T Baze 118 M K Cho 6 Manando 3/C L M Garcia 118 B Baffert   Analysis: (once again, at the time of this writing odds were not released yet) 1) Goldencents- this colt from the Doug O’Neill barn appears to be a solid favorite and, on paper, lays over this field. Into Mischief colt has been very impressive in all three career starts. (Won his racing debut by blowing out maidens by over seven lengths, then ran second to Horse of the year candidate and certain two year old champion Shanghai Bobby in the prestigious Champagne Stakes at Belmont and followed that up with a wire to wire score in the Delta Downs Jackpot Million).  He shows nothing but huge work outs dating as far back as last Halloween that has O’Neill (and myself) impressed. “He worked (six furlongs) in 1:10 and (one-fifth) last Thursday (Dec. 27) and if you didn’t have a stop watch, you’d have thought he went in 1:14 or 1:15, just cruising,” said O’Neill. “I did have a stop watch on him, and as I looked down and saw one-ten and change, it was just, ‘wow!’ It was really amazing. “He came out of it in great shape, full of energy, and it’s just one day at a time. He’s got to stay injury-free but he’s a real exciting prospect.”…those are pretty strong words coming from a guy who won the Kentucky Derby last year. Lastly, he’s won at one and one sixteenth miles before so the mile distance on Saturday afternoon should pose no problem at all. Provided his jock doesn’t do anything stupid….down the road with this guy.     2) Den’s Legacy- Bob Baffert colt was a $150,000 Keeneland November 2010 yearling purchase and has shown good consistency while finishing on the board six times in eight career starts. He appears to be improving with each race and that last race, (made up a ton of ground late, ninth position early but finished third) the Cashcall Futurity, was by far his best. Look out for this guy late in the race especially if the top choice is forced to go too fast too early…stretch threat for sure.   3) Manando- comes into this having never finshed off the board in four lifetime starts (4-1-0-3). He absolutely cruised at Hollywood Park in his last as he broke his maiden by over five lengths on the engine (leading all the way). The problem I see is that all four of the aforementioned races were all maiden races and he takes a huge step up in class here….that being said, he looks best of the rest. Record: 2013: 0-0 2012: 24-74= 32%   Little Bets N’ Pieces: **** 1-9 betting favorite Kauai Katie cruised to an easy eight-length win in the Jan. 1 Old Hat Stakes at GulfstreamPark in her three year old debut. The speedster completed six-furlongs in 1:09.3 for trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey John Velasquez. “It was really a two horse race,” Velazquez said. “I wasn’t going to let (runner up) Cor Cor get away too easily so I put some pressure on her. When I got to her, Katie pulled away from them and she made it easy for me.” “She was impressive,” Pletcher said. “I was concerned about the ‘three’ filly (Cor Cor). It looked like she had a lot of speed and from the one post it makes it a little bit difficult tactically. It worked out well. The other filly cleared and we were able to get to the outside and make a move to stalk”. According to Pletcher, the Jan. 26 Forward Gal Stakes is the next target for Kauai Kate   Unlike myself, Kauai Kate was not hung over on New Years Day. **** Merit Man, who was coming off a runner-up finish to Hightail in the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint, also won on the New Years Day card at GulfstreamPark when he took the $100,000 Spectacular Bid Stakes. Merit Man ran the six furlongs in 1:11:2 over the ‘fast’ track, and returned $4.40 to win.  ”That was a lot of fun,” trainer Bob Hess said of the victory. “He broke so sharp, (jockey) Joel (Rosario) really had to go on with him. We love Santa Anita, but for him the series of races for 3-year-olds is better here. We’ll look to run him again in about a month.” The Feb. 2 $150,000 Hutcheson Stakes at seven furlongs seems like a logical spot according to Hess.   Merit Man also won on New Years Day at Gulfstream   **** Lord Avie, champion 2-year-old male of 1980 and perhaps one of my all time favorite racehorses, died Dec. 28 at Blue Ridge Farm in Virginia from natural causes. He was 34. (If you convert that to human years, that’s about 95 to 100 years old). The son of Lord Gaylord was selected by Daniel Perlsweig at the 1980 sale of 2-year-olds in training at HialeahPark and was a $37,000 purchase “He was the horse of a lifetime for me,” said Perlsweig, 85. “He gave me a lot of pleasure and opened many doors for me and my family.” Trained by Perlsweig, Lord Avie raced for SKS Stable.   Lord Avie had a very successful juvenile campaign, winning back-to-back grade I’s in the Champagne Stakes at BelmontPark and the Young America Stakes at the Meadowlands. He also scored victories in the Cowdin Stakes and Juvenile Stakes at Belmont. The stretch runner ran second in the Sapling at MonmouthPark, the Hopeful at Saratoga, and in the Arlington Washington Futurity at ArlingtonPark, and a third in the Tremont at Belmont.    In 1981, he started the season with a come from behind win in the Hutcheson Stakes, then came third in the Fountain of Youth, but bounced back to take the Florida Derby, all at GulfstreamPark. After the Florida Derby, Lord Avie incurred a ligament (suspensory) injury and was forced out of the Triple Crown races. After sitting out the entire Triple Crown series he won a Monmouth allowance, then finished second in the Haskell Invitational to Five Star Flight and third in the Travers won by Willow Hour. The Travers would be his final start; he was retired after the suspensory injury reared its ugly head again. He retired with earnings of $705,977. Lord Avie was syndicated for $10 million and first stood at Spendthrift Farm, but spent the majority of his career as a stallion at Lane’s End until he was pensioned from breeding in 2002. After being pensioned, Lord Avie was sent to the historic Blue Ridge Farms and his 21-year-old graded stakes winning son, Boyce. He was visited at least once every year by Perlsweig, who last saw him in April.   Lord Avie with trainer Danny Persweig (right) at Lane’s End Farm in 1993     **** Jockey Rajiv Maragh was involved in a spill in the second race at Aqueduct Racetrack Dec. 31 and will be sidelined at least two weeks after sustaining a hairline fracture of the T3 vertebrae in his upper back, according to his agent, Matt Muzikar. Maragh took off his mounts at the New York racetrack Jan. 1 after spending the evening of Dec. 31 at NorthShoreUniversityHospital. He was expected to be released later Jan. 1. “The doctors want to reevaluate him again in two weeks,” Muzikar said. Maragh is a very strong rider who gets the most out of his mounts from where I sit. He is an especially good rider when on the inside and down the stretch.   Rajiv Maragh will be out a couple of weeks **** Nicole H also celebrated New Year with a win in the Interborough Handicap at Aqueduct Racetrack In doing so, she became the first mare to win three consecutive editions of the $75,000 Interborough Stakes    Trained by Mike Hushion, this daughter of Mr. Greeley obviously loves the inner track at Aqueduct as she owns not only three Interborough wins but wins also in the 2012 Correction Handicap, and the 2010 Garland of Roses as well. Nicole H loves the inner track at Aqueduct    
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