Santa Anita, The Sham, Grade Three, One Mile, Dirt, Three-Year-Olds
The Doug O’Neill-trained Goldencents (4/5 on the morning line) is certain to be heavily favored in the Sham. He’s won a Grade 3, he’s finished second in a Grade 1; in fact he’s never really run a bad race. His Performance Figures are the best in the field and are on the up, albeit modestly. In his most recent race, the Delta Downs Jackpot, he fought off an early challenger and set a fast pace, yet was still able to hold off strong late challenges from both MyLute and Bern Identity. He has been training very fast over the Santa Anita surface. His trainer won the Kentucky Derby last year. The list of positives is long and the toteboard odds will be short.
Can anybody beat Goldencents?
Greeley Awesome is fresh off a win in an uninspiring maiden claimer. Although his Performance Figure (95) was decent, he is taking quite a class jump today and seems up against it.
The two ridglings, Dry Summer and Dirty Swagg, are more accomplished than Greeley Awesome, while Dry Summer’s trainer, Jeff Mullins, has been known to conjure big efforts on occasion, but today’s assignment seems a little much.
That leaves the two Baffert entrants, Manando and Den’s Legacy, and it is worth noting that they have different running styles: Manando is a frontrunner who won his lone route race in wire-to-wire fashion. He may be quicker than Goldencents in the early stages and it’s not difficult to imagine Baffert sending Manando to the front today in an attempt to force the favorite into a stalking or pace-pressing role to which he is unaccustomed. Den’s Legacy, on the other hand, is a closer who figures to benefit if Manando and Goldencents press on too soon.
Den’s Legacy was well beaten in his only dirt race, but he ran with credit on Performance Figures and he has been training well over today’s surface. He will also have the assistance of Garrett Gomez, who has no peer among California riders when it comes to making a well-timed late run. While Den’s Legacy’s Performance Figures are not a match for Goldencents’- a fact that shouldn’t be taken likely- his odds will be considerably higher, and he looks like the best candidate to upset the favorite.
Aqueduct, The Jerome, Grade Two, One Mile 70 Yards, Dirt, Three-Year-Olds
The Jerome has been positioned all over the calendar of late. A one-time late summer fixture at Belmont Park, the Jerome was recently moved to late April and run on Aqueduct’s main track. This year’s edition of the Grade 2 event has been moved to early-January and will be run over the inner track for the first time.
The morning line odds suggest that Vyjack, Long River and Mudflats are tough to separate, but there appears to be an especially strong case to be made for the second-named of that trio.
Impeccably bred (by A. P. Indy out of 2006 Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Round Pond) and in the care of leading trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, Long River made an inauspicious start to his career at Belmont last September, but that was perhaps to be expected given neither his sire nor trainer are renowned for producing winning debutants.
Long River wasn’t long in making amends for his dismal first appearance, showing serious promise as he ran a Performance Figure of 112 when finishing second in a very good maiden race at the same track. The winner of that race, Delhomme, was subsequently beaten less than a length in a strong edition of the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes, while Mudflaps was six lengths behind Long River in third.
It doesn’t end there, however. Long River’s third and latest run, when he broke his maiden over the same course and distance as the Jermone, yielded a field-best Peformance Figure of 116 figure, that despite the fact he was bottled up for most of the race, eventually running out a visually-impressive winner. He could be every bit as good as his pedigree suggests and is very much the recommended selection in the Jerome.
When considering exotic wagers, Vyjack enters calculations. There are doubts, notably his sprint-oriented pedigree, but he’s high on Performance Figures, has a good draw and should be able to take a prominent early position, so he shouldn’t be tossed. Vegas No Show performed poorly with the addition of blinkers in the Remsen. They come back off here and he can get a piece if he can reproduce his performance when second to subsequent Grade 1 winner Violence in the Nashua two starts back.
Last but not least, Siete de Oros is a very intriguing longshot who could really spice up the trifecta or superfecta. He’s a rapidly-improving horse who will break from the rail. Last time out, he ran a 97 Performance Figure despite having the pace dynamics firmly against him. He’s sired by an A. P. Indy stallion and should relish the added distance, while the fitting of blinkers might remedy his erratic in-race tendencies.