07/30/2009 11:00PM

Catching Shem won't be easy at Santa Rosa


One of the best handicapping angles is lone speed. Shem is the lone speed in Sunday's $50,000 Joseph T. Grace at the Sonoma County Fair in Santa Rosa, Calif., and could claim his first stakes victory in the 1 1/16-mile turf race.

Shem hasn't raced since June 13, when he went wire to wire in a second-level optional claimer going a mile on the Golden Gate Fields turf. That race came after a seventh-place finish in the Grade 3 Golden Gate Fields Turf won by Spring House, which was an ambitious spot and at 1 3/8 miles perhaps too long for Shem.

Trained by Steve Specht, Shem is often there or thereabouts, with a record of 5-4-4 from 24 starts.

Each of his Shem's rivals is also seeking his initial stakes victory.

Trainer Gloria Buckridge sends out the uncoupled entry of Awesome Jared and Taco Willy. Buckridge virtually concedes the race to Shem, but she calls her runners "the two second-best runners in the race."

Awesome Jared used to like the front end and has turned into a stalker. He may be sitting closest to Shem early, but Buckridge doesn't want Awesome Jared to compromise whatever chance he may have by trying to pressure Shem too much early.

Coming off a strong win in a $25,000 claimer at Pleasanton, Awesome Jared has Buckridge confident that he'll turn in a good effort.

"He's training great, feeling great," she said. "This is probably the best he's ever been in his life.

"He tries every time you lead him over. Right now, his mind is really good. He thinks he's King Kong right now."

Taco Willy is the only member of the field to win on this turf course. He won the first race run on the turf course in 2005, and his time of 1:43.32 for 1 1/16 miles held up through most of the first season of turf racing, until Adreamisborn's victory in 1:42.20 in the Grace on the closing weekend.

Taco Willy cuts back in distance after a second and a fourth at 1 3/8 miles.

"If he runs as good as he can, he could be tough," Buckridge said.

Both Eager Pharisien and Flaming Bullet have multiple stakes placings. Eager Pharisien ran third in the Grace in 2007.

Shore Do ran third in the Grade 1 Norfolk as a 2-year-old in 2007.