Ten runners will look to enhance their Kentucky Derby (G1) credentials when they line up in Saturday's $150,000 Sham S. (G3) at Santa Anita. The 1 1/8-mile event looks very contentious, with no graded winners but a number of promising individuals among the entries, and provides a perfect opportunity to grab some graded earnings.
Maiden winners SETSUKO (Pleasantly Perfect) and NEXTDOORNEIGHBOR (Lido Palace [Chi]) are two of the six contestants making their stakes debut, and the Sham could serve as a launching pad for either colt. Setsuko attracted attention when rolling to a superb three-length score over maiden special weight rivals at Hollywood Park in mid-December, and trainer Richard Mandella elected to run him back in a 1 1/8-mile turf allowance at Santa Anita on January 27 because there were no available races at nine furlongs on Pro-Ride. After rating behind a very slow pace that afternoon, the bay colt rallied boldly to fall only a half-length short and galloped out impressively after the finish line. Rafael Bejarano retains the mount.
Nextdoorneighbor didn't run poorly in his first two sprint starts last year, but the Michael Machowsky trainee turned a corner when stretching out to two turns last time, posting a smart four-length tally over maiden special weight rivals at Santa Anita on January 24. The Florida-bred has trained forwardly over the Pro-Ride since then, recording a six-furlong bullet in 1:10 3/5 recently, and will pick up a new rider in Mike Smith on Saturday.
CashCall Futurity (G1) fourth-placer THE PROGRAM (Harlan's Holiday) merits serious respect. He owns a seasoning advantage over many of his untested rivals, winning a February 3 allowance most recently over the Pro-Ride, and hails from the strong Bob Baffert stable. Martin Garcia will be back on board. KETTLE RIVER (Congaree) will bring a two-race winning skein into his initial stakes attempt for Eoin Harty, and OUTLAW MAN (Forest Wildcat) exits a good-looking turf score for Kenny McPeek.
California-bred WOLF TAIL (Strive), who captured the restricted Graduation S. at Del Mar, is the lone stakes winner entered, but he looms as an outsider in this spot following a third versus state-breds in an allowance/optional claiming event.