Top Fortitude broke his maiden by 2 3/4 lengths on Nov. 16.

Top Fortitude broke his maiden by 2 3/4 lengths on Nov. 16.

Benoit Photo

Six Potential Stars Line Up in Sham Stakes

First-out maiden winners Top Fortitude, Midnight Hawk step up at Santa Anita Jan. 11.

First-out maiden winners Top Fortitude and Midnight Hawk each take a giant step into graded company as part of a field of six 3-year-olds in the $100,000 Sham Stakes (gr. III) Jan. 11 at Santa Anita Park.

The one-mile Sham, race 5 on the Saturday card with a 2:30 p.m. PST scheduled post, gets the 3-year-old season started in Southern California. Inexperience abounds, with five of the six entrants coming off maiden victories. The Sham is the first of two graded stakes on the Santa Anita program, followed in race 8 by the San Pasqual Stakes (gr. II) for older horses at 1 1/16 miles.

The Kory Owens-trained Top Fortitude, to again be ridden by Kayla Stra, is owned and bred in Arizona by the Owens family-owned Triple AAA Ranch. The son of Top Hit out of the French Deputy mare French Debutante earned a Sham-best last-out Beyer figure of 92 in his debut, a 2 3/4-length score going 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:16.35 on the Cushion Track at Betfair Hollywood Park Nov. 16.

Top Fortitude is a full brother to $691,512 earner Uh Oh Bango, winner of the 2012 San Pasqual and third in the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) later that year. Top Fortitude's dam also produced multiple graded stakes-placed and multiple stakes-winning Ez Dreamer, who banked $533,948, and multiple stakes winning filly Top Debutante.

Top Fortitude, who drew post 5, worked a sharp five furlongs at Santa Anita in 1:01 3/5 Jan. 3. He should show plenty of speed in his first try around two turns.

To his outside is Midnight Hawk, another with speed owned in part by former Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Tice and Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville. He also exits an impressive maiden heat Dec. 13 for trainer Bob Baffert. The son of Midnight Lute  simply ran away from his five opponents to snatch his 7 1/2-furlong debut by 6 1/4 lengths as a 6-5 favorite. The gray/roan colt was bred by Mike Pegram and will race without blinkers in his second start.

In addition to Tice and Quenneville, Midnight Hawk is owned by John Sikura’s Hill ‘n’ Dale Equine Holdings, Mike Kitchen, and Pegram.  He worked a bullet five furlongs in :58 2/5 Jan. 6 and could well go favored again with Mike Smith aboard.

The leading money earner in the Sham field is Life Is a Joy, who comes off a second-place finish in the state-bred King Gloriousthe final stakes run at Hollywood Park Dec. 22. Owned and bred in part by trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, the 3-year-old gelding by Globalize won the Charlie Palmer Futurity at Fresno Oct. 5, and he has earnings of $131,330 from a record of 3-1-0 in six starts.

Reddam Racing’s Ontology graduated in his eighth start, a one mile maiden turf event Dec. 28. Running in stakes company in six of his starts, including a 10th-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. IT) Nov. 1, he has $109,250 in earnings from a win and three seconds. A Kentucky-bred colt by hot sire Tapit  racing for trainer Simon Callaghan, Ontology tuned up for his maiden win by zipping five furlongs in :59 3/5 Dec. 21 on the Santa Anita main track.

Stretched out to 1 1/16 miles for the first time, Hronis Racing's Kristo responded by breaking his maiden by 6 3/4 lengths as a heavy favorite Oct. 31, but the John Sadler-trained Distorted Humor  colt has not been to the post since. The Kentucky-bred drilled six furlongs in 1:12 4/5 Jan. 5, and will be making his fourth career start Saturday.

Trainer Doug O'Neill enters I'll Wrap It Up, who also comes off a maiden win at 1 1/16 miles Dec. 7. He will be racing a route distance for the third time in a row in the Sham. Also by Tapit, he’s owned by Daniel Kramer and Westside, and will be ridden for the first time by Tyler Baze. Previously based at Hollywood Park, I’ll Wrap It Up worked five furlongs at Santa Anita on Jan. 4 in 1:01 4/5.

$100,000 Sham Stakes (gr. III, Race 5, 2:30 p.m.), 3YOs, 1 Mile
PP. Horse, Jockey, Trainer
1. Kristo (KY), R Bejarano, J W Sadler
2. I'll Wrap It Up (KY), T Baze, D F O'Neill
3. Life Is a Joy (CA), C S Nakatani, J Hollendorfer
4. Ontology (KY), M Gutierrez, S Callaghan
5. Top Fortitude (AZ), K Stra, R K Owens
6. Midnight Hawk (KY), M E Smith, B Baffert
All assigned 118 pounds.
Blinkers Off: Midnight Hawk