01/09/2016 7:12PM

Collected heads one-two finish for Baffert in Sham

Benoit & Associates
Collected, racing on dirt for the first time under Martin Garcia, defeats stablemate Let's Meet in Rio by 1 1/4 lengths in the Sham.

ARCADIA, Calif. – American Pharoah was honored with the Vox Populi Award on Saturday at Santa Anita, Secretariat’s owner Penny Chenery was in the house, California Chrome returned to action, and the Sham Stakes was run. Yes, the aura of the Kentucky Derby hung over the track, and, appropriate of the scene, it was four-time Derby-winning trainer Bob Baffert who shined with a couple of his 2016 Derby prospects.

 Baffert-trained Collected and Let’s Meet in Rio finished one-two in the Grade 3, $100,750 Sham Stakes, the first graded stakes of the season for 3-year-olds that offers points towards a berth in the May 7 Derby at Churchill Downs.

 Collected was making his first start on dirt after a pair of grass races, and prevailed after racing four paths wide on the first turn and three paths wide on the far turn while pressing the pace. He lasted to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Let’s Meet in Rio, who closed from last in the eight-horse field to be second.

 Laoban, a maiden, was third, another 1 1/2 lengths back, and was followed, in order, by Found Money, I’malreadythere, Semper Fortis, Rare Candy, and Sorryaboutnothing.

 Dressed in Hermes was scratched in the morning because of illness.

 The final time of 1:38.00 for one mile – with a final quarter in 26.08 seconds -- on a fast main track will not produce a strong Beyer Speed Figure, and that’s not a surprise, being as this looked like a moderate group going in. But Collected and Laoban had the least experience of any of the eight runners, so Collected may not have reached his ceiling just yet, though Baffert has far better Derby prospects – e.g., Mor Spirit, Toews On Ice – at this point.

 Still, it shows the depth of Baffert’s barn that he can pick off a race worth $60,000 for first – as well as 10 points – with a second-stringer.

“I was hoping for a little easier trip,” Baffert said. “I thought he might be lone speed, but everybody was rushing. He still had something left after all that.

 “It’s the time of year when you want to see something like that,” said Baffert, who said Collected strikes him as the kind of horse who may ship to opportunistic spots this spring.

 “I’ll definitely keep him on dirt,” Baffert said. “There’s big pots all around the country.”

 Martin Garcia rode Collected and has been aboard for all of his starts. Collected won his debut down the hill at Santa Anita in October, then was second to Dressed in Hermes in the Grade 3 Cecil B. DeMille at Del Mar on Nov. 29.

 Collected is owned by the Speedway Stable of oilman Peter Fluor of Houston.