01/11/2015 1:05PM

Road to the Derby analysis: Sham Stakes

Benoit Photo
Calculator wins the Sham Stakes by 4 1/4 lengths Saturday at Santa Anita Park.

Grade 3, $100,750 Sham Stakes, one mile, Santa Anita, Jan. 10, 2015
(10 Derby qualifying points for a win, 4 for second, 2 for third, 1 for fourth)

Winner: Calculator
Trainer: Peter Miller
Jockey: Elvis Trujillo
Owner: Richard C. Pell
Beyer Speed Figure: 97

CALCULATOR entered the race as a maiden, but his credentials from last year caused him to be favored at 3-5 against seven rivals, and he thoroughly dominated them in his first start since September.

Calculator earned his odds-on favoritism through runner-up finishes last year behind American Pharoah in a pair of Grade 1 races, the Del Mar Futurity and Santa Anita’s FrontRunner Stakes. In the FrontRunner, Calculator finished in front of Texas Red, who subsequently won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, a race both American Pharoah and Calculator missed with injuries suffered the week of the Breeders’ Cup.

Trainer Peter Miller warned before the Sham that Calculator might not be fully tight, being as he only had three workouts since a brief illness caused him to miss the Los Alamitos Futurity in December. But Calculator showed no signs of rust.

Calculator, starting from post 7 in the eight-horse field, found himself five paths wide entering the first turn. Jockey Elvis Trujillo was able to drop in a bit while going around the turn, but Calculator continued to lose ground, albeit in the clear. Calculator was three paths wide around the far turn while showing keen acceleration to swoop past his rivals. He drew away through the stretch for a 4 1/4-length victory.

While this was an eye-catching performance and Calculator certainly has shown he belongs among the elite 3-year-olds in the country, it will be interesting to see how he handles longer distances going forward. He is a son of In Summation, who was a sprinter, but his dam is by Alphabet Soup, a Breeders’ Cup Classic winner. Perhaps his bottom side will help him negotiate the longer distances demanded in upcoming Kentucky Derby preps, but the topside of his pedigree is a concern in regard to races at 1 1/8 miles and 1 1/4 miles.

:: ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays

Calculator’s Beyer Speed Figure of 97 was the best of his career and was three points faster than the figure earned by the 4-year-old Hoppertunity one hour later in the Grade 2 San Pasqual for older horses. Hoppertunity’s one-mile split in that 1 1/16-mile race was 1:35.17, 0.29 seconds slower than Calculator’s final time. The track played very fast, but the variant was consistent throughout the day, according to Andrew Beyer, who makes his eponymous figures for Santa Anita.

The only other horse in the Sham who seems worthy of following in upcoming Derby preps was the runner-up ROCK SHANDY, who ran on well while making his first start on dirt after three grass races. He was a bit stirred up in the paddock before the race, was caught three paths wide entering the first turn, sat behind horses in traffic on the final turn, then got clear and beat everyone but the runaway winner while finishing 4 1/4 lengths in front of the third-place PIONEEROF THE WEST. Rock Shandy is a son of the Belmont winner Lemon Drop Kid, so the upcoming longer distances of the Derby preps should suit him. Like Calculator, Rock Shandy is trained by Peter Miller.

Pioneerof the West stalked the early pace of ST. JOE BAY and eventually got the best of that rival, but he finished 8 1/2 lengths behind the winner.

St. Joe Bay, who was fourth, bobbled a bit leaving the gate, was sent hard from his rail draw by jockey Martin Pedroza to make the top, set splits of 22.87 seconds for the opening quarter and 46.36 for a half-mile, then tired in the final furlong.

PAPACOOLPAPACOOL, who was fifth, also bobbled slightly a stride out of the gate, was four paths wide entering the first turn, dropped in a path before the three-quarter pole, then had a fairly uneventful trip. This was his first dirt race after four starts on turf, so for now, it looks like turf is preferred.

HERO TEN ALL, who finished sixth, was well back early, hugged the rail, and passed a couple of tired horses while never making an impact.

The seventh-place finisher UNBLUNTED seemingly secured a good spot inside while a sensible margin behind the dueling leaders but had nothing to offer when asked with three furlongs to run.

ROCKINATTEN, who finished last of eight, drifted wide entering the first turn to wind up in the fourth path, continued wide to end up in three path on the final turn, and never got involved.