01/03/2013 1:19PM

Santa Anita: Goldencents starts road to Kentucky Derby in Sham Stakes

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Between them, trainers Doug O’Neill and Bob Baffert have won three of the last four runnings of the Santa Anita Derby, and their drive to this year’s race on April 6 begins in earnest Saturday, when both send out a pair of runners in the Grade 3, $100,000 Sham Stakes, the first graded stakes of the Santa Anita meet for Kentucky Derby prospects.

O’Neill has the horse to beat in Goldencents, who displayed tremendous promise at age 2, including a victory in the Delta Downs Jackpot and a runner-up finish behind likely divisional champion Shanghai Bobby in the Champagne Stakes. The Sham, at one mile, will mark his first two-turn race on a mile racetrack, but he has shown an ability to adapt, having finished first or second in all three of his starts at three different racetracks.

“He hasn’t done a thing wrong,” O’Neill said. “To fly across the country and finish second in the Champagne showed that he’s got a lot of ability, and then he overcame the outside post in his race at Delta, which impressed me.

“Hopefully, he didn’t peak in Vinton, La.,” O’Neill said, referring to the site of Delta Downs.

In fact, Goldencents appears to be coming into the Sham in excellent form. O’Neill is not known for working his horses aggressively, but Goldencents has turned in best-of-the-morning drills in his last two workouts.

An intriguing aspect of the race involves the pace, because Goldencents has gone to the lead in all of his starts. But Manando, a Baffert trainee, is likely to be aggressive from an outside post, being as he won in front-running fashion against maidens at Betfair Hollywood Park in his last start.

“I don’t think Goldencents needs the lead,” O’Neill said. “If someone wants to go crazy to the front, I think we can sit and let that horse go. If not, we can take the lead. He’s got that Lava Man combination of speed and stamina.”

O’Neill also sends out the longshot Greeley Awesome, who beat maiden claimers in his seventh and most recent start Nov. 30 at Hollywood Park.

“He was entered in a couple of starter-allowance races that didn’t fill, so it was either this or leave him in the barn,” O’Neill said. “It’s a short field. Hopefully, he can get a piece of the purse.”

Manando took four starts to finally defeat maidens, but his last race was his first around two turns after three sprints, which Baffert believes made the difference.

“He just couldn’t keep up chasing going short,” Baffert said. “Going long, you’re not going 21 and change. It makes a difference.”

Baffert’s best chance, though, may be with Den’s Legacy, who comes off a late-running third-place finish under Garrett Gomez last month in the CashCall Futurity.

“He ran a great race,” Baffert said. “Garrett was mad at himself after the race. He thought he could have been second if he’d have stayed inside instead of going outside.”

There are two others entered in the six-horse field.

Dry Summer never fired when eighth of 11 in the FrontRunner in his only previous try on dirt, but trainer Jeff Mullins said he is encouraged by his recent works over the track.

Dirty Swagg was seventh of 11 in the CashCall Futurity after getting squeezed at the start. He was a good third in the Real Quiet Stakes in his prior start, but his only Santa Anita race was poor. He finished ninth of 11 in the FrontRunner. After two starts without blinkers, they go back on Saturday.

The Sham offers qualifying points to the Kentucky Derby as part of Churchill Downs’ new system to determine entries in the event the race oversubscribes. Points are awarded on 10-4-2-1 basis to the top four finishers in the Sham.

Denis Murphy More than 1 year ago
Den's legacy!
Ponies Payme More than 1 year ago
I'll take Dens Legacy and hope the speed collapses. Golden came home in 27 1/5 in route and Manato came home in 14 1/5 in a sprint..
Big Jeff More than 1 year ago
Tomorrow is Sunday.
Big Jeff More than 1 year ago
Ha, ha, ha, way to go superstar.
edb More than 1 year ago
Goldencents easy. Try using Golden in DDs on back and frontend and hope for a bomb. Just stay healthy for it is a long and winding road.
Nicholas Heaven More than 1 year ago
Goldencents will crush these
Barry Mitchell More than 1 year ago
Golden scents is going to win easy. Draws off by no less then 5 at the wire.
worbleworble More than 1 year ago
Really a shame that there is such a small field in this early prep. It's very, very early, but Goldencents is in my Top 3 right now.
Lucky P More than 1 year ago
This comment is not on the Sham--though I think it'll be a good race--but for something I wrote on one of Privman's pieces last week, the one concerning Bob Baffert's press release on the fatality of Tweebster. The two comments I wrote that, in retrospect ,were exceptionally wrong-headed, had to do with Privman "carrying Baffert's water" in the writing of the story. And, I suggested that if the story had to do with someone other than Baffert, it wouldn't have received the play it did. Privman actually took the time to contact me and explain how the story was assembled, et al, and after the discussion I was left with two distinct impressions. One was that he simply wrote the story he'd been asked to write. There was no bowing to Baffert or anyone else for that matter. Tthe other impression I was left with was that he cares a lot about his work and that he puts a lot into it. Privman,is a good reporter. I've always thought that. After speaking with him I'm inclined to say the sport is lucky to have him. My comments about Baffert stand. signed Andy Plattner
Infinity More than 1 year ago
Dirty swag--LOL!!
Jim Fields More than 1 year ago
It's fun to see two great trainers compete, because we are all in racing to win races, and these two are surely top ten in the last decade. Good racing to both of them, they run very good operations. Anybody that thinks that drugs are what gives them their edge is certainly not knowledgeable in regards to our industry.
Albert More than 1 year ago
I can't remember anyone trying to make a drug case against Baffert. Help me out on that. O'Neil is another matter. Don't suspensions count as evidence in your book?
Kristian O'Reilly More than 1 year ago
This year's 3yo crop is a WIDE OPEN bunch. The Derby winner pays a minimum $30.0
robert NEVEU More than 1 year ago
can you say 1-5