The Pamplemousse , who knocked off favored Square Eddie by two lengths in winning the San Rafael Stakes (gr. III) last month, heads a dozen 3-year-olds entered for the $200,000 Sham Stakes (gr. III) at Santa Anita Feb. 28.
Trained by Julio Canani, the 3-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Kafwain is the only stakes winner in the field for the 1 1/8-mile Sham, which will be contested over Santa Anita's Pro-Ride racing surface. The Pamplemousse has won both of his previous route tries on synthetic tracks.
Owned by Bienstock and Winner Stable, Alex Solis Jr., Strauss and Lenner, The Pamplemousse is considered one of the West Coast's leading Triple Crown candidates. The gray/roan colt was purchased for $150,000 at the Ocala Breeders' Sale for 2-year-olds in training last March.
Named for a popular Del Mar eatery, The Pamplemousse chewed up his rivals in the one-mile San Rafael in front-running fashion under steady handling by regular rider Alex Solis while clocking 1:35 1/5. It was the jockey's son who selected The Pampelmousse out of the Ocala sale.
The third-place finisher in the San Rafael, Marsha Naify’s Ryehill Dreamer, suffered a fractured pastern during a workout at Hollywood Park over the weekend and underwent successful surgery Feb. 23.
Trainer John Shirreffs said the son of Catcher in the Rye had been training brilliantly for the Sham. “He'd shown a lot of improvement and was coming up to the race great,” Shirreffs said. “This was the type of injury you’d see at Newmarket when the ground gets real hard.”
Shirreffs said after the surgery the colt was doing "very well" in his recovery Feb. 25.
Solis and The Pamplemousse drew post 5 for the Sham and will carry 118 pounds. They should be able to dictate the pace.
The Pamplemousse broke his maiden two starts back in his first attempt at a route distance when he drew away from Turf Paradise Derby winner Mayor Marv by 2 3/4 lengths following a pace duel at Hollywood Park Dec. 14. His career record stands at 2-0-1 from four starts.
The Todd Pletcher-trained Take the Points has some speed as well and steps up to stakes competition following an impressive two-length score in a one-mile allowance race at Gulfstream Park Jan. 31.
Owned by Starlight Partners, Take the Points returned from a four-month layoff following a maiden win in September. The gray/roan son of Even the Score , a $160,000 yearling purchase at Fasig-Tipton Kentucky in July 2007, gets Garrett Gomez for his Southern California debut.
Gomez will probably have to use some of the colt's speed in order to overcome the far outside post. This will also be Take the Point's first start on a synthetic track.
“He trains like he’ll handle it,” Pletcher said. “If he runs well, he can come back in the (April 4) Santa Anita Derby.”
Trainer Bob Baffert is represented by Ventana, who has shown some pace ability in the past as well. Ventana dons blinkers for a quick turnaround following a fourth-place finish in the San Vicente Stakes (gr. II) at seven furlongs Feb. 16. Baffert's leading Triple Crown contender Pioneerof the Nile is ticketed for the San Felipe Stakes (gr. II) March 14.
Ventana, a $410,000 son of Toccet, broke his maiden at first asking Sept. 5 at Belmont Park by 5 1/2 lengths. Since then, he has run in six consecutive stakes, last losing by 2 1/4 lengths to the filly Evita Argentina in the San Vicente.
“He actually ran better (in the San Vicente),” Baffert said. “He didn’t give it up. He was right there; he was steady the whole way. He just got beat.”
Trainer Eoin Harty entered a pair of maiden winners -- Darley Stable's Hi Flyin Indy, who drew the rail, and WinStar Farms' Mr. Hot Stuff.
Hi Flyin Indy, a $750,000 Keeneland September sale yearling by A.P. Indy, looks to atone for a seventh-place showing in an optional claiming allowance race at Santa Anita Jan. 29. In his Santa Anita debut three weeks earlier, the bay colt won a 1 1/16-mile maiden race in smart closing style by one length. Alonso Quinonez subs for Rafael Bejarano, who will be out of town.
Mr. Hot Stuff broke his maiden Feb. 1 at odds of 9-1, rallying from last in a one-mile test at Santa Anita by 1 3/4 lengths. Corey Nakatani retains the ride on the Tiznow colt.
Bourbon Bay, whose previous five starts have been on the turf, makes his synthetic debut for trainer Neil Drysdale. The Sligo Bay gelding last raced Nov. 29, finishing third in the Generous Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Hollywood Park.
Maiden winners Smart Bid, Tiz True, Lifeline, Balfour Park, Mark S the Cooler, and Unbridled Roman complete the field.
$200,000 Sham Stakes (gr. III, Race 9, 4:38 p.m.), 3-Year-Olds, 1 1/8 Miles (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Hi Flyin Indy (KY), 116, Alonso Quinonez
2. Smart Bid (PA), 118, Rafael Bejarano
3. Tiz True (KY), 116, Aaron T. Gryder
4. Lifeline (KY), 116, Tyler Baze
5. The Pamplemousse (KY), 118, Alex O. Solis
6. Balfour Park (KY), 116, Brice Blanc
7. Mr. Hot Stuff (KY), 116, Corey S. Nakatani
8. Bourbon Bay (KY), 116, Joel Rosario
9. Ventana (KY), 116, Jesus M. Rios
10. Mark S the Cooler (KY), 116, Joseph Talamo
11. Unbridled Roman (CA), 116, Mike E. Smith
12. Take the Points (KY), 118, Garrett K. Gomez