12/23/2013 3:08PM

Santa Anita: West Coast offers up strong contingent of 3-year-olds for 2014

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Shared Belief, winner of the recent CashCall Futurity, is part of a strong group of West Coast 3-year-olds of 2014.

ARCADIA, Calif. – New Year’s Day and Shared Belief figure to be two of the three finalists for the Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male, one of them figures to win the title, and both of them are based this winter at Santa Anita, part of a West Coast contingent for the 2014 Kentucky Derby that has both quality and depth.

Bob Baffert, the trainer of New Year’s Day, and Jerry Hollendorfer, who trains and is a co-owner of Shared Belief, are loaded for the meet – which opens on Thursday – as is John Sadler, whose Candy Boy was second to Shared Belief in the recent CashCall Futurity. With the purse of the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby, to be run on April 5, having been raised to $1 million, this promises to be a compelling season at Santa Anita for newly turned 3-year-olds of 2014.

The interest will not be confined to the males. She’s a Tiger, disqualified from victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and a leading contender for champion 2-year-old filly, is scheduled to race here this winter, as is unbeaten Streaming, winner of the Hollywood Starlet at Betfair Hollywood Park earlier this month.

Those fillies are pointing to the Grade 1, $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks, which Santa Anita has shrewdly moved to also be part of the April 5 program. In the past, the Santa Anita Oaks was run in March, forcing the best local fillies to have a final prep for the Kentucky Oaks in races like the Fantasy at Oaklawn or Ashland at Keeneland. Now, they have the option of simply staying home.

Preceding the Santa Anita Derby are stakes like the Grade 3, $100,000 Sham on Jan. 11, the Grade 2, $200,000 Robert Lewis on Feb. 8, and the Grade 2, $300,000 San Felipe on March 8. Those three plus the Santa Anita Derby are worth points under the system Churchill Downs now uses to determine eligibility to the Kentucky Derby, with the Santa Anita Derby offering 100 points to the winner, and the San Felipe 50, making both essentially Win and You’re In races.

[Santa Anita opening day: Get PPs, watch Thursday's card live]

The Sham and Lewis are worth just 10 points to the winner. New Year’s Day got 10 points for his Breeders’ Cup Juvenile victory, but Churchill Downs eliminated the CashCall Futurity from the points list this year, so Shared Belief has as many points as an unstarted maiden.

Scoreboard-watching could influence spring campaigns. Hollendorfer last weekend said he was thinking of running Shared Belief in the Lewis and then awaiting the Santa Anita Derby, though the points ramifications were paramount, so the San Felipe remains an option.

If Shared Belief goes in the Lewis, that could provide an early-season showdown, because that’s where Baffert is aiming New Year’s Day for his 2014 debut.

“He reminds me of Silver Charm,” Baffert said. “He doesn’t show much in the morning, but he’s there in the afternoon when you need him.”

Hollendorfer also has Tamarando, third in the CashCall Futurity, who will use his California-bred eligibility to run in the $250,000 California Cup Derby on Jan. 25 before jumping back into open company.

Baffert is loaded for the winter. His powerful lineup includes Indianapolis, who won his debut going six furlongs at Hollywood Park Nov. 24 and could go in the Sham; Midnight Hawk, who romped by 6 1/4 lengths in his debut Dec. 13; comebacking Roundupthelute; the unraced colts Hoppertunity (by Any Given Saturday) and Bayern (by Offlee Wild); and mental patient Tap It Rich.

Baffert has both Chitu – who earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 92 when winning his debut at Hollywood Park on Dec. 7 – and the 1-for-2 Beach Hut in a six-furlong allowance race Friday.

The Admiral, third to Chitu when both debuted Dec. 7, stretches out around two turns on Friday for Baffert in a one-mile maiden race that also drew Cool Samurai, a son of First Samurai who was a promising third in his lone start, which came at Belmont Park in October for trainer John Shirreffs.

Baffert has Indian Smoke, a colt out of champion Indian Blessing, set for his debut in a six-furlong maiden race Saturday in which he also sends out Pimpernel, who was third as the 4-5 favorite in his debut. Saturday’s field is loaded with promising newcomers, including Chelios, a son of Distorted Humor trained by Tom Proctor; Garen, a Peter Miller-trained son of Street Cry who cost $235,000 at auction in May; and Tumbaga, a son of E Dubai who has turned in a series of fast drills for Eoin Harty.

Harty also has high hopes for Yard Line, second on Dec. 7 to Chitu while finishing in front of The Admiral. Yard Line is scheduled to make his next start Jan. 4.

Sadler’s best prospect might be the improving Candy Boy, but he also has Kristo – who is scheduled to run in the Sham – as well as Kobe’s Back, who had a dreadful trip in the CashCall Futurity, and the maiden Act.

Doug O’Neill has Bond Holder, winner of the FrontRunner, and the recent maiden winners Bourne Hot and I’ll Wrap It Up.

Also worth following are Top Fortitude, a sprint debut winner for Kory Owens, and Knock Em Flat, a Jeff Mullins-trained son of Flatter who showed promise sprinting against maidens at Del Mar and is nearing his return.

She’s a Tiger, trained by Jeff Bonde, and the Baffert-trained Streaming are the most-accomplished fillies pointing to the Oaks, but others to follow include Hollendorfer-trained Taste Like Candy, second in the Starlet; Koukla (Sadler), a debut winner at Hollywood Park on Sunday; the comebacking Awesome Baby (Baffert); as well as Crushed Velvet (Baffert) and Artemis (Hollendorfer), one-two in a fast Hollywood Park maiden race Dec. 8.