03/04/2010 12:00AM

Delay has little effect on Sham

Benoit & Associates
Nextdoorneighbor comes into the Grade 3 Sham off a four-length maiden victory on Jan. 24. The win came in his first two-turn start.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Although it was postponed by one week, the Grade 3, $150,000 Sham Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita had the field largely remain intact. Such promising young runners as Nextdoorneighbor, Kettle River, and Setsuko head a field of 10 3-year-olds trying to emerge as late-developing threats for the Grade 1, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby four weeks hence and the May 1 Kentucky Derby.

It was the headline event last Saturday, when wet weather washed away the card. Now, it is a supporting stakes race on a terrific card headed by the Santa Anita Handicap, Kilroe Mile, and Santa Anita Oaks, all Grade 1 events.

With rain in the forecast, Santa Anita officials also carded the Sham for Sunday in case it can't be run on Saturday.

Both the Sham - named for the second-best 3-year-old of 1973 - and the Santa Anita Derby are at 1 1/8 miles, so this is a significant step for Derby prospects. The delay had minimal impact on the field or its top runners. Of the 10 entered last week, eight are back, and though two longshots dropped out, two newcomers entered. Post positions barely changed. Nextdoorneighbor, who had the outside last week, ended up in post 9 with the re-draw. Setsuko went from 5 to 7, and Kettle River, in post 2 last week, got post 6 with the re-draw.

Eoin Harty, who trains Kettle River, said last week's rainout actually helped his colt, who had a minor setback after beating a first-level allowance field Jan. 6.

"It kind of played to my benefit, because he had missed a work after that last race," Harty said. "He had a temperature and a cough. With the race delayed a week, I was able to put another work into him, so I feel better about it. At least we're not sitting on our last Derby prep. There's still plenty of time."

Kettle River, Nextdoorneighbor, and Setsuko are in desperate need of graded stakes earnings.

"I've got to accumulate graded earnings with him," Mike Machowsky, the trainer of Nextdoorneighbor, acknowledged.

Nextdoorneighbor is coming off a four-length win against maidens in his first try around two turns. Like Kettle River, he is making his fourth start.

Setsuko took five starts to earn his maiden win, then was a fast-finishing second in a 1 1/8-mile first-level allowance on turf. He seems vastly improved since blinkers were added for his win against maidens, and Rafael Bejarano, the runaway leader as the meet's leading jockey, chose to ride him over Nextdoorneighbor.

The Program won a low-rated first-level allowance last time, after finishing third to Kettle River in the Jan. 6 allowance.

Outlaw Man comes off a victory on turf against maidens. This will be his first start on a synthetic surface, but all three of his grass races were solid efforts, so there are encouraging signs that he will make the transition.