Terese McWilliams’ California homebred Alphie's Bet pulled clear at the top of the stretch and raced home a 2 1/4-length winner in the $150,000 Sham Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO), a 3-year-old race rescheduled from last weekend.
With the Santa Anita Pro-Ride surface unable to handle the heavy rains a week ago, the 1 1/8-mile Sham finally went to post with a field of 10 March 6. With weather not an issue this time, Alphie’s Bet broke from the outside under Alex Solis and raced mid-pack in the early going while El Mirage King and Nextdoorneighbor fought it out on the front end through splits of :23.62 and :47.61. Marcello and The Program, both saddled by Bob Baffert, were also up close, along with Wolf Tail.
The Program, with Martin Garcia aboard, was travelling best when they came off the turn and took over from Nextdoorneighbor at the top of the lane. But it wasn’t long before Alphie’s Bet, who had advanced along the turn and entered the stretch with a four-wide trip, passed The Program and opened up a clear lead. The son of Tribal Rule put the race away approaching the sixteenth-pole and hit the wire in a final time of 1:48.72.
Setsuko, the 5-2 favorite, was runner-up by 1 1/4 lengths under Rafael Bejarano, followed by The Program and then Outlaw Man.
“Today, he was very light on his feet," Solis said. "He was a much sharper horse, but he’s so big, he’s so heavy, when he comes out of the gate, it takes him a while to get into stride. The way he ran today didn’t surprise me at all."
Trained by Alexis Barba, Alphie’s Bet was winless in three starts as a juvenile, but did finish second by less than two lengths in the Dec. 26 California Breeders' Championship Stakes to undefeated Caracortado, who could be the favorite for the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) April 3. In his first start this season Jan. 15, Alphie’s Bet broke his maiden by 1 1/4 lengths on the turf while rallying from well off the pace. He turned in a pair of bullet works leading up to the Sham.
"I wasn’t concerned at all (going from grass to Pro-Ride)," Barba said. "He’d already run on this (synthetic) course in that Cal-bred stakes, so we already knew that he liked it. I’m not sure what we’re going to do with this horse yet (for his next race). We’re going to discuss it, and then we’re going to let you know after we figure it out.”
Co-owned by Peter Johnson Sr., Alphie’s Bet is out of the Candi’s Gold mare Miss Alphie. He improved to 2-1-0 from five starts and increased his earnings to $141,320.
The winner paid $19, $8.40, and $4.80. The $1 exacta (10-7) returned $40.90 and the $1 trifecta (10-7-2) paid $256.40.
Boulder Creek was fifth, followed by Marcello, Nextdoorneighbor, Kettle River, El Mirage King, and Wolf Tail.