Seven three-year-olds assemble for Sham Stakes

The Sham Stakes, the first step on California’s road to the Kentucky Derby, is featured at Santa Anita this Saturday. A field of seven goes in this 1 1/16th-mile race worth 17 points toward the “Run for the Roses” (10-4-2-1). The Grade III, $100,000 event goes as Race 7, post time is 6:30 p.m. EST. As always, feel free to take part in FanXT’s Daily Fantasy Jockey game as you bet the races!

#1 AMERICAN ANTHEM (9-5) represents the Baffert barn and will have the services of Mike Smith for the first time. He went six furlongs in his debut at Del Mar and made up over three lengths in the stretch to score by a neck. His pedigree says he can get the distance and his works are steady for his first start since December. Smith will just have to work out the right trip from the rail. Look for AMERICAN ANTHEM to draft behind early speedsters #6 BIG HIT and #7 BLABIMIR before launching a late bid.

#5 GORMLEY (8-5) is the narrow favorite on the strength of his Grade I Frontrunner Stakes win from October. However, his September debut win and seventh-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile do not inspire confidence, as they were not fast at all on paper. Furthermore, GORMELY made a clear lead before crossing the line first in the Frontrunner; that’s not likely to happen today. With a limited sample size to draw from, GORMELY seems like a risky proposition at short odds in the Sham. Victor Espinoza retains the mount.

#4 COLONEL SAMSEN (12-1) is an intriguing longshot as he lures Flavien Prat for his dirt debut. He’s won two straight at Golden Gate, including the Gold Rush Stakes on synthetic dirt. COLONEL SAMSEN has worked over Santa Anita’s dirt course going back to the fall and seems to handle it fairly well; he just drilled four furlongs in 48 and 1/5th seconds to prep for this. He’ll also have the benefit of Lasix for the first time.

The play: $6 exacta 1/5, $4 exacta 1/4 ($10)

DFJ analysis: Flavien Prat has five mounts on Saturday’s card, and just about all of them are live. In addition to COLONEL SAMSEN, Prat rides Paquita Coqueta in the Las Cienegas and Flamboyant in the San Gabriel. He’s also on a live first-time starter named Party Gal in Race 4.

Hall-of-Famer Mike Smith will have a fairly busy day as well, riding in all three stakes on the card. It wouldn’t be surprising if he swept all three, as he rides AMERICAN ANTHEM in the Sham, Prize Exhibit (9-5) in the Las Cienegas and Twentytwentyvision (4-1) in the San Gabriel.

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