01/10/2016 2:53PM

Road to the Derby analysis: Sham Stakes

Barbara D. Livingston
Collected wins the Sham Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita.

Grade 3, $100,750 Sham Stakes, one mile, Santa Anita, Jan. 9, 2016
(10 Derby qualifying points for a win, 4 for second, 2 for third, 1 for fourth)

Winner: Collected (sire: City Zip)
Trainer: Bob Baffert
Jockey: Martin Garcia
Owner: Speedway Stable LLC
Beyer Speed Figure: 80

On paper, this did not appear to be a very strong edition of the Sham, and the end result seemed to confirm that perception as COLLECTED – making his first start on dirt after two grass races – prevailed in a slow time and earned a Beyer Speed Figure that was the second-lowest of the 12 Kentucky Derby prep scoring races run to date.

The lowest, interestingly, was the 79 earned by Nyquist in the FrontRunner in his final start before the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Nyquist subsequently won the BC Juvenile to remain unbeaten and secure the division’s title. But Nyquist and runner-up Swipe in the FrontRunner were returning on short rest (19 days) following the Del Mar Futurity and both were trying two turns for the first time. They had a right to improve off that race, and they did in the Breeders’ Cup, for which the winner got an 89.

Collected had ample rest going into the Sham and had gone two turns before. However, this was his first start on dirt, and he had a wide trip, so those inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt can hang their hopes on those factors. I’m not in that camp, though, believing him – and this field overall – to be a cut below the division’s elite. I think Collected is a decent horse whose future – like many offspring of City Zip (Dayatthespa, etc.) – ultimately will be back on turf.

In the Sham, Collected – starting from the outside post in the field of eight – was forced to race outside a four-horse duel for the lead around the first turn, with Garcia taking a hold of him to try to get him not to go too fast too soon. He never had an opportunity to drop in and thus had to race three paths wide on the far turn. He moved up to engage FOUND MONEY for the lead at the quarter pole, got the best of Found Money passing the furlong pole, then steadily made his way to the wire in a final furlong in 13.44 seconds and final quarter in 26.08.

LET’S MEET IN RIO, like Collected trained by Baffert, rallied for second after trailing for the first half-mile. He saved ground throughout and got a gorgeous trip along the inside on the far turn, shifted out for room in upper stretch and bumped with I’MALREADYTHERE while appearing to try to avoid a drifting SEMPER FORTIS, cleared Semper Fortis in midstretch while being asked for his best, and closed well enough, though I’m of the opinion his closing rush was more of an illusion owing to LAOBAN and Found Money being out of gas at that point. This was his first start with Lasix.

Laoban was third, which might be the biggest indictment of this field as he is a maiden who had made just two starts coming into this race, and he was beaten just 2 3/4 lengths despite a wide trip of his own. He broke a bit awkwardly while taking bump from Semper Fortis and was outrun to the first turn, at which point he got very rank and needed to be taken to the five path to avoid running up on heels. He continued to tug hard at Tyler Baze up the backstretch while well off the rail, went into the far turn in the four path, outside Collected, was urged to keep up beginning at the quarter pole, and kept to his task to beat five rivals, which doesn’t speak much to those five.

Found Money, who was fourth, showed good speed and was the innermost horse of the four who vied for the lead around the first turn. He conceded the lead to stablemate Semper Fortis down the backstretch, then was able to re-engage along the rail on the far turn as Kieren Fallon – on Semper Fortis – looked back again to make sure he had left room. After enveloping Semper Fortis, he and Collected moved together past the quarter pole, but he began to yield to Collected a furlong out and tired.

I’malreadythere, who was fifth, was the third-widest of the four who battled for the early lead. By midway through the race, though, he was already being asked to keep up, but he dropped back between horses with three furlongs remaining and looked as though he was done. Interestingly, after taking a bump from Let’s Meet in Rio, he tried to rally anew, but he never was a threat. There was a stewards’ inquiry into that bump, and I think the stewards made the right call in leaving the result alone as it did not prevent I’malreadythere from a better placing. In fact, it might have provoked him to stay interested because he looked done a few strides prior.

Semper Fortis, who was sixth, veered out at the start and made the early strides challenging for Laoban. He showed good speed and was the second widest of the four who vied for the lead before emerging with the lead moving down the backstretch. He remained off the rail enough to let Found Money come back inside him – something Fallon eyed repeatedly – then came under an aggressive ride midway on the far turn but had nothing left and drifted out in upper stretch, causing a chain reaction that included Let’s Meet in Rio altering course to bump with I’mreadythere.

RARE CANDY, who was seventh, hopped a bit leaving the gate, saved ground from his inside draw around the first turn while behind the dueling leaders, sat in that gorgeous spot to the far turn, was asked for his best three furlongs out, gradually angled wide to be outside I’malreadythere in upper stretch, had to check slightly to avoid I’malreadythere after I’malreadythere was bumped by Let’s Meet in Rio, and never made an impact.

SORRYABOUTNOTHING, who finished last of eight, was sent aggressively leaving the gate but was outrun, was floated out about five paths wide early on the first turn, angled back in to race outside Rare Candy down the backside, started to lose contact with three furlongs to go, and was pretty much mercifully allowed to coast home through the lane.