Thriving on a trip that found him three- and four-wide much of the way, Peter Johnson Sr. and Teresa McWilliams' ALPHIE'S BET (Tribal Rule) had plenty in reserve through the stretch to wear down the speed and draw away as much the best in Saturday's $150,000 Sham S. (G3) at Santa Anita, a Kentucky Derby (G1) prep that had been postponed one week due to a water-logged track. Under Alex Solis, who guided The Pamplemousse to victory in the same race a year ago, Alphie's Bet drove home an 8-1 winner by 2 1/4 lengths in a time of 1:48 3/5 over the Pro-Ride. The 8-1 sixth choice in the wagering paid $19, $8.40 and $4.80.
Breaking from post 10, Alphie's Bet tracked in sixth early as El Mirage King (Out of Place) and Nextdoorneighbor (Lido Palace [Chi]) traded the lead through splits of :23 3/5 and :47 3/5. The latter had opened up by more than a length through a half-mile and still held close to that margin after three-quarters in 1:12 1/5, but was soon challenged by The Program (Harlan's Holiday), who claimed the lead at the top of the stretch. That stalker held a short lead, but could not withstand the bid of the winner.
"Today, he was very light on his feet," Solis said. "He was a much sharper horse, but he's so big, he's so heavy, when he comes out of the gate, it takes him a while to get into stride. The way he ran today didn't surprise me at all. To be honest, I try not to think too far ahead. I just pray to God he stays healthy."
"I'm not sure what we're going to do with this horse yet (for his next race)," said trainer Alexis Barba, who also trained Make Music for Me (Bernstein) to victory in the Pasadena S. the race before the Sham.
Setsuko (Pleasantly Perfect), the 5-2 favorite, made a mild rally to finish a clear second by 1 1/4 lengths, returning $4.40 and $3.20. The Program held third by a head over Outlaw Man (Forest Wildcat), and gave back $4 at 5-1. The $1 exotics were worth $40.90 (exacta), $256.40 (trifecta) and $1,664 (10-7-2-3 superfecta). Boulder Creek (Tapit), Marcello (Johannesburg), Nextdoorneighbor, Kettle River (Congaree), El Mirage King and Wolf Tail (Strive) rounded out the order of finish.
Fourth in his first two starts against California-bred maidens at Hollywood Park, Alphie's Bet rallied from last for runner-up honors in the December 26 California Breeders' Champion S. behind Caracortado (Cat Dreams), who subsequently captured the Robert B. Lewis S. (G2) and will head into next Saturday's San Felipe S. (G2) undefeated in five starts. Alphie's Bet finally got into the win column last time, defeating state-bred maidens by 1 1/4 lengths over a mile on turf. With this initial stakes triumph, Alphie's Bet has earned $141,320 from a line of 5-2-1-0.
Bred by McWilliams, Alphie's Bet is the first foal out of Miss Alphie (Candi's Gold), who also placed since in the California Breeders' Champion S. (filly division) during her racing career. A half-sister to the Australian Group 1 winner Absolut Glam (Aus) (Snowland), from the family of Australian Group 3 winner Moonflute (Danehill), Miss Alphie has also produced an unnamed juvenile filly by Benchmark and a yearling colt named Unusual Heatwave (Unusual Heat).