Eight of the original 10 entrants for Santa Anita's Sham Stakes (gr. III), a useful prep for next month's Santa Anita Derby (gr. I), remained part of the lineup when the entries were taken for the March 6 makeup date. The Sham, which had been set for Feb. 27, was canceled due to wet track conditions.
Trainer Bob Baffert took advantage of the delay to add graded stakes-placed Marcello to the field, and Craig Dollase did the same thing with his recent maiden winner Boulder Creek. That restores the lineup to the original 10 3-year-olds after the removal of the long shots Straightomidnight and Viva Macho.
Baffert already has one of the race favorites in The Program, who drew post 2 for the makeup date. Marcello, who kicked off his 2010 campaign with a third-place finish in the Baffle Stakes on turf Feb. 13, starts from the rail. Marcello ran second in the Generous Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Hollywood Park on grass last fall.
Others seeking to further their Triple Crown aspirations in the Sham include Nextdoorneighbor, Kettle River and Setsuko.
The Sham, at the Santa Anita Derby distance of 1 1/8 miles, has often used by trainers as a means to test unproven youngsters. Because of last weekend's cancellation, there will be only one week between the Sham and the more traditional 3-year-old prep stakes, the 1 1/16-mile San Felipe Stakes (gr. II), which is set for March 13. This year's Sham, part of a five-stakes program, goes as the seventh race at approximately 3:07 p.m.
Michael Machowsky already trains a strong Santa Anita Derby contender in the unbeaten California-bred Caracortado, but with Amerman Racing's Nextdoorneighbor, he is optimistic about having a second runner in the picture. Nextdoorneighbor drew post 9 for the rescheduled race, only slightly better than the far outside starting berth he had originally been slotted for.
Nextdoorneighbor has one win in three stars, breaking his maiden by four lengths while running 1 1/16 miles in 1:43 4/5 on Jan. 24. A loser of his first two starts sprinting, the Florida homebred is by Lido Palace out of the stakes-winning Fencelineneighbor. He has caught the attention of clockers, who noted his blistering work of 1:10 3/5 for six furlongs on Feb. 15. Mike Smith will ride.
Baffert’s The Program, whom he trains for Thoroughbred Legends Racing Stable, is coming off a pair of solid efforts at 1 1/16 miles, including a nose victory over stablemate Indian Firewater in a first-level allowance Feb. 3. The Program finished 1 1/2 lengths behind another member of Baffert's powerful 3-year-old stable, Kentucky Derby Future Wager favorite Lookin At Lucky , when fourth in Hollywood Park’s CashCall Futurity (gr. I), to close out his 2-year-old campaign on Dec. 19.
Darley Stable's Kettle River defeated The Program in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race Jan. 6 and will be making his first start since then. The Congaree colt has a two-race winning streak for trainer Eoin Harty, breaking his maiden while two-turning on the Hollywood Park turf Nov. 15.
Another promising entrant is Wertheimer and Frere's Setsuko, a son of Pleasantly Perfect trained by Richard Mandella. Setsuko has raced two turns in his last five starts with a win, a pair of seconds, and a pair of thirds. He is coming off a fast-closing second to Alfarabi when beaten by a half-length over 1 1/8 miles on turf on Jan. 27. Rafael Bejarano, who has also ridden Nextdoorneighbor, will be back aboard Setsuko.
The only stakes winner in the Sham is California-bred Wolf Tail. He captured the Graduation Stakes for trainer Doug O'Neill at Del Mar last summer. He ran fifth behind Caracortado and Sham rival Alphie's Bet in Santa Anita's 1 1/16-mile California Breeders' Championship Dec. 26.
Besides West Point Thoroughbreds' Boulder Creek, other last-out maiden special weight winners in the field are Outlaw Man, El Mirage King, and Alphie's Bet.
$150,000 Sham Stakes (gr. III, Race 7, 3:07 p.m.), 3-Year-Olds, 1 1/8 Miles (Synthetic)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Marcello (KY), J Valdivia, Jr., 116, B Baffert
2. The Program (KY), M Garcia, 118, B Baffert
3. Outlaw Man (VA), G K Gomez, 116, K G McPeek
4. El Mirage King (KY), T Baze, 116, M S Han
5. Boulder Creek (FL), V Espinoza, 116, C Dollase
6. Kettle River (KY), B Blanc, 118, E G Harty
7. Setsuko (KY), R Bejarano, 116, R E Mandella
8. Wolf Tail (CA), C Sutherland, 116, D F O'Neill
9. Nextdoorneighbor (FL), M E Smith, 116, M Machowsky
10. Alphie's Bet (CA), A O Solis, 116, A Barba