Undefeated Secret Circle, winner of the inaugural Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint two months ago, will make his first attempt around two turns for trainer Bob Baffert in the $100,000 Sham Stakes (gr. III) at Santa Anita Park Jan. 7.
Secret Circle is one of six 3-year-olds entered in the Sham, which was cut back to one mile this year from 1 1/16 miles. The race will also be the first route try for Hierro, an impressive maiden winner at Churchill Downs Nov. 9 for trainer Steve Asmussen, who won last year's Sham with Tapizar .
The Sham is the first of three two-turn graded stakes locally for 3-year-olds leading to the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) April 7. It is the third on a nine-race program with a 1:31 p.m. PST expected start. The card includes the San Pasqual Stakes (gr. II), the first stakes prep of the year for the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) March 3.
Secret Circle, who has captured his three prior sprint starts by a combined 13 1/2 lengths, will race without blinkers in the Sham. The son of Eddington drifted out with shades on for the first time in the Breeders' Cup. He held on to take the Juvenile Sprint as the 2-5 choice in front-running style by one length despite being jostled at the break.
Owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman, Secret Circle won the Jack Goodman Stakes in his only prior start on the Santa Anita main track last October. The $165,000 Ocala buy last March has been working smartly at Santa Anita for his return, including a bullet six-furlong move in 1:10 4/5 Dec. 28. Rafael Bejarano, who has been aboard the bay colt in each of his races, retains the mount.
Baffert, as usual, has several Triple Crown candidates in 2012 including CashCall Futurity (gr. I) victor Liaison . But he rates Secret Circle among his most promising. Secret Circle, who has been favored in each of his starts, breaks from post 4.
Stonestreet Stables' Hierro has started three times for Asmussen, all at seven furlongs. Last time, the chestnut colt broke through with an easy tally by 5 1/4 lengths over nine maidens as the odds-on choice at Churchill. He was a close second on a muddy Belmont Park strip prior to that.
A son of Hard Spun , Hierro is expected to handle the distance at first asking. A $350,000 buy out of the Ocala sale at which Secret Circle sold, Hierro will be ridden by Julien Leparoux, who was aboard for the maiden victory. They are slotted one spot in from Secret Circle in post 3.
Longview Drive had a three-race win streak on the Northern California fair circult ended when he finished third behind the well-regarded Sabercat in the 1 1/16-mile Delta Jackpot (gr. III) at Delta Downs in Louisiana Nov. 19. The Pulpit colt, trained by Jerry Hollendorfer for owner Steve Beneto, trailed the field on the final turn at Delta Downs and put in a strong finish in the short homestretch while racing wide.
Joel Rosario retains the mount on Longview Drive, who will add blinkers for his sixth start at six different racetracks.
Handsome Mike set a hard-pressed pace in the 1 1/16-mile CashCall Futurity and gave way in the final furlong at Hollywood Park to finish seventh. J. Paul Reddam's Scat Daddy colt ran second in the one-mile Generous Stakes (gr. IIIT) on turf prior to that. Corey Nakatani is aboard the Doug O'Neill trainee.
Darley Stable's Out of Bounds comes off a nice maiden score on Hollywood Park's Cushion Track and will be stretching out from seven furlongs for trainer Eoin Harty.
Senor Rain bore out badly on the first turn and was pulled up in the Generous, his turf debut, and trainer Peter Miller removes the blinkers this time. The Indiana-bred gelding ran third after setting the pace without the hood in the 1 1/16-mile Real Quiet Stakes at Hollywood Park Nov. 12.
$100,000 Sham Stakes (gr. III, Race 3, 1:31 p.m.), 3YOs, 1 Mile
PP. Horse, Jockey, Trainer
1. Senor Rain (IN), J Talamo, P Miller
2. Out of Bounds (KY), G K Gomez, E G Harty
3. Hierro (KY), J R Leparoux, S M Asmussen
4. Secret Circle (KY), R Bejarano, B Baffert
5. Longview Drive (KY), J Rosario, J Hollendorfer
6. Handsome Mike (KY), C S Nakatani, D F O'Neill
All Carry 118 pounds.
Blinkers Off: Senor Rain, Secret Circle; Blinkers On: Longview Drive