West Point Thoroughbreds' El Gato Malo puts his unbeaten record on the line against Colonel John and four others in the $200,000 Sham Stakes (gr. III) for 3-year-olds at Santa Anita March 1. Another entry, Coast Guard, will be scratched due to a minor ankle injury.
Coast Guard's trainer Dave Hofmans said Thursday the son of Stormy Atlantic came out of a disappointing six-furlong work Feb. 23 with heat in his ankle. Hofmans had been hoping it would improve enough to run in the Sham, but the problem is still there, so Hofmans said he will scratch the colt and wait a week and run him in the El Camino Real Derby (gr. III) at Bay Meadows. Coast Guard is coming off a second in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II) to Crown of Thorns, who also is hurt and is off the Derby trail.
El Gato Malo, three-for-three in his brief career with earnings of $160,200, is coming off a 6 1/4-length triumph in the one-mile San Rafael (gr. III) on Santa Anita's synthetic racing strip Jan. 12 for trainer Craig Dollase. David Flores, who rode the gelded son of El Corredor for the first time in the San Rafael, has the mount once again. The Kentucky-bred breaks from the inside post in the 1 1/8-mile Sham and carries high weight of 120 pounds.
It could be a big day for Dollase, who also starts leading contenders Awesome Gem and Monterey Jazz in the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) shortly after the Sham, which goes as the seventh race on the program.
El Gato Malo was eye-catching in winning the San Rafael. He stormed from off the pace to draw clear mid-stretch and won while ridden out. The time was 1:33 1/5. The dark bay's three victories have come by a combined total of of 16 lengths. The nine furlongs of the Sham will be El Gato Malo's biggest distance test in preparation for the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) on April 5.
The Sham also marks the 3-year-old debut of WinStar Farm homebred Colonel John for trainer Eoin Harty. Colonel John last raced Dec. 22, finishing second behind Into Mischief as the favorite in the Cash Call Futurity (gr. I) at Hollywood Park.
The Tiznow colt dazzled last fall when he romped to a three-length victory in the Real Quiet Stakes. The bay has been working brilliantly for his return at Santa Anita, including three bullet drills in the past month. Colonel John most recently worked five furlongs Feb. 25 in 1:00 3/5.
“He’s ready to go,” trainer Eoin Harty said.
Colonel John has two wins and two runner-up finishes in four starts with earnings of $255,300. Garrett Gomez replaces the injured Corey Nakatani aboard Colonel John, who was assigned 118.
The Sham lost lost Crown of Thorns and Coast Guard, but drew the third-place finisher from 1 1/16-mile Lewis -- the Japanese-bred Reflect Times.
Koji Maeda's Reflect Times, a French Deputy colt, won the first two starts of his career before a third-place showing in the Lewis for trainer John Shirreffs. The chestnut trailed the compact field into the stretch before rallying under Mike Smith, finishing 6 1/4 lengths behind the winner.
Victory Pete shows up here for trainer Alexis Barba following a third-place finish in the 1 1/16-mile California Derby at Bay Meadows Jan. 27. Victory Pete held a narrow lead in the stretch run of the Cal Derby before giving way to the victorious Yankee Bravo by one length. The Florida-bred son of Five Star Day broke his maiden on the Santa Anita turf Jan. 10.
Oak West Farm's Trevor's Clever, who broke his maiden at the $40,000 claiming level last fall, makes his first stakes try for trainer Ted H. West.
The New York-bred maiden Success Fee ran second in a one-mile special weight event over the surface Jan. 31 for trainer Doug O'Neill and owner J. Paul Reddam.
$200,000 Sham Stakes (gr. III, Race 7, 3 p.m.), 3-Year-Olds, 1 1/8 Miles (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. El Gato Malo (KY), 120, David R. Flores
2. Success Fee (NY), 116, Michael C. Baze
3. Coast Guard (KY), 116, Rafael Bejarano
4. Trevor's Clever (FL), 116, Tyler Baze
5. Victory Pete (FL), 116, Joseph Talamo
6. Colonel John (KY), 118, Garrett K. Gomez
7. Reflect Times (JPN), 116, Mike E. Smith