02/24/2010 12:00AM

Outlaw Man shooting high in Sham

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Outlaw Man will try a synthetic track and a stakes for the first time in Saturday's $150,000 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita. While it may seem as if trainer Kenneth McPeek and his team are demanding a lot from the 3-year-old, their timing could be ideal.

The Grade 3 Sham Stakes lacks a standout and Outlaw Man could earn a spot in another Kentucky Derby prep with a strong effort.

"I've been around him since he was a young 2-year-old," assistant trainer Jordan Blair said. "He's more professional now than he's ever been. He's kind of getting it figured out.

"The reason we're pointing for this race is the distance. We can't pass on this opportunity."

Outlaw Man has never faced winners. By Forest Wildcat, Outlaw Man needed four races to beat maidens, finally doing so by a desperate nose in a maiden race on turf here on Jan. 27.

The Sham Stakes is run over 1 1/8 miles on the Pro-Ride synthetic track. While Outlaw Man has never raced on the surface, he works over it regularly. Plus, his maiden win on turf was over 1 1/8 miles.

For Saturday's race, Garrett Gomez has the mount on Outlaw Man, although Alex Solis, who was aboard for the maiden win, has continued to work the colt in recent weeks, Blair said.

"Alex breezed him the last couple of times, and the last work, when he went a half-mile in 48, he came back and sang a pretty happy tune," Blair said. "He looks good on it."

Outlaw Man is part of a field of 10 in the Sham Stakes. None of the runners has won a graded stakes. Nextdoorneighbor, the sharp winner of a maiden race over 1 1/16 miles on Jan. 24, is expected to go favored. Solis has the mount on Alphie's Bet, who was second in the California Breeders' Champion Stakes here on Dec. 26.

Kettle River, who has won his last two races, is entered in the Sham, trainer Eoin Harty said. Kettle River, the winner of an allowance race on Jan. 6, missed a week of training because of illness earlier this month, but has rebounded sufficiently, Harty said.