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Sham Stakes History

There are few Kentucky Derby prep races as young as the Sham (G3) at Santa Anita, first held in 2001 and named after Secretariat’s famous Triple Crown rival. At the same time, few preps in the same class as the Sham have been as successful at producing Derby starters and high-quality horses.

By awarding 17 Kentucky Derby qualification points to the top four finishers, including 10 to the winner, the Sham has cemented its position as a coveted early-season target for California’s top 3-year-olds.

Originally held over 1 18 miles in early February, the Sham received an early boost when 2003 runner-up Empire Maker went on to finish second in the Kentucky Derby and first in the Belmont Stakes (G1). Two years later, Giacomo used a third-place effort in the Sham as a springboard to his shocking 50-1 triumph in the “Run for the Roses,” which prompted the Sham to receive Grade 3 status in 2006.

The Sham was shifted to January in 2011 and shortened to a mile in 2012, but these changes haven’t made the race any less productive. Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) winners Tapizar and Goldencents claimed the Sham in 2011 and 2013, while Grade 1 winners Collected (2016), Gormley (2017), and McKinzie (2018) all reached the Sham winner’s circle during the late 2010s.

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has enjoyed more Sham success than any other conditioner, saddling six of the first 20 winners. But one of Baffert’s most talented participants, future Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) winner Secret Circle, was beaten by Out of Bounds in 2012. The winning time was a stakes-record 1:34.56, a testament to how well both colts performed.

By J. Keeler Johnson

Sham Stakes Recap

Newgrange remained unbeaten after scoring a decisive victory in the Sham S. (G3) at Santa Anita Park on New Year’s Day.

The son of Violence came into the race following a maiden success at Del Mar and wasn’t as favored as his stablemate Rockefeller, who at his previous start won the Nashua S. (G3) at Belmont Park over subsequent Jerome S. third-place finisher Cooke Creek.

But after getting to the front for John Velazquez, Newgrange drew away at the top of the stretch and won the one-mile event nicely by 2 34 lengths from Rockefeller, who was conceding four pounds to Newgrange.

Neither Newgrange nor Rockefeller were eligible for points in the 2022 Road to the Kentucky Derby series as their trainer Bob Baffert has been suspended by Churchill Downs Inc.

Oviatt Class, who earned two points on the 2022 Road to the Kentucky Derby series when third in the American Pharoah S. (G1) in October, took another two points for finishing third in the Sham, a nose behind Rockefeller. In between he had finished fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), and the son of Bernardini could improve further as distances increase during the Derby preps.

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) third placegetter Mackinnon, who started second favorite, took fourth place and earned one point in the Derby Road series. The son of American Pharoah had previously won three races on turf, including two stakes events, and he will need more improvement on dirt to become a Derby contender.

By Alastair Bull