Sham Stakes first chance at January Road to the Derby Bonus Cash
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The Sham attracted a field of seven, with #6 MCKINZIE understandably listed as the 3-5 morning line favorite off a blowout debut victory and a game run in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1), in which he was ultimately awarded the victory via disqualification of stablemate Solomini.
As the son of Derby winner Street Sense was more keen in the Futurity than either trainer Bob Baffert or jockey Mike Smith might have preferred, McKinzie will race without blinkers in the Sham. That might help.
McKinzie is obviously no bargain from a betting perspective, but on paper seems the most likely winner. If he does wind up going off at 3-5 and scores, a $20 Win bet would return $32. Factor in the above bonus if he finishes first and your actual payoff would be at odds of 11-10. Still nothing to crow about but better than a poke in the eye.
What about his competition? Shivermetimbers was beaten more than six lengths by McKinzie at seven furlongs, then rebounded to graduated by a head over next-out winner Peace over a mile. He's obviously improved, but enough to turn the tables?
Baffert's other entry is Mourinho, who adds blinkers after finishing second to the then-maiden Greyvitos in the Bob Hope (G3) as the beaten favorite. I'm not convinced he's considered in as high esteem as McKinzie, while recent maiden-breaker All Out Blitz seems more of a pace factor. [Mourinho has been scratched -- Ed.]
My Boy Jack, if he gets a hot enough pace and adapts to dirt as well as he has to grass, could potentially surprise for the Desormeaux brothers, who enjoyed success two seasons ago with Exaggerator. He's spent most of his young career routing, winning the $100,000 Zuma Beach and losing by only three lengths in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G1). Connections have been in no rush to test his dirt prowess, though, possibly a strong tell.
The other race with Derby implications on Saturday is the $100,000 Mucho Macho Man at Gulfstream, with the two main contenders being the stakes-winning #3 DAK ATTACK (9-5) and the impressive maiden scorer Mask. Dak Attack is preferred given his debut victory over subsequent Hopeful (G1) winner Sporting Chance and his sharp work pattern coming into this one-mile event.
The $100,000 Ginger Brew, a 7 1/2-furlong grass test for three-year-old fillies run before the Mucho Macho Man, has an interesting contender in #3 CLOSER STILL (5-1), who captured two of her four starts over the Tapeta at Woodbine at age two for trainer Mark Casse. Despite lacking grass form, the Calumet homebred (interestingly foaled in Ireland) is certainly bred to love it being out of Australian great So You Think and out of an Oasis Dream mare. It would be no surprise to see her show improvement on this surface and pull of a minor surprise.